ROBBINSVILLE — For anyone who hasn’t seen Michael Fischer pitch, the Robbinsville High junior showed state baseball fans why he’s an ace.
Fischer fired seven shutout innings of two-hit ball, allowing his offense to finally pounce for six runs in the sixth inning as the Ravens claimed their first Central Jersey Group II crown with a 7-0 victory Friday afternoon against visiting Rumson-Fair Haven.
“What you saw today, if that’s the first time you saw him pitch, he does that every time he goes out,” Robbinsville head coach Tom Brettell said. “What you don’t see if you’re not watching him is that he can command three pitches and you don’t know what you’re going to get because he can throw them for a strike. ... That’s him. What you saw is what you’re getting from him.”
Fischer improved to 6-1 and was every bit in control after settling his nerves and stranding a pair of runners in the first. He struck out five and didn’t issue a walk — at one point retiring 10 Rumson batters in a row.
“I was just going in there throwing strikes,” Fischer said. “I knew my defense would help me out so I let them hit the ball and kept my pitch count low. It worked out. They hit themselves into outs and we made all the plays.”
Fischer’s performance came as little surprise to junior right fielder and friend Danny McKiernan.
“The kid is unbelievable,” he said. “He’s an incredible kid. He’s got speed ... a great offspeed pitch. He’s a great friend of mine, too — absolutely best friend. I wouldn’t be here without him.”
The second-seeded Ravens (19-8-1) have been pulling the right strings throughout this run in the CJ Group II playoffs. In their four state tourney games, they’ve allowed a total of one run — in a 2-1 quarterfinal victory against Manchester Township.
“We have one of the best defenses around,” Fischer said. “I know that if I throw strikes and they put the ball in play, we’re going to make the plays.”
For most of the afternoon, it looked like this sectional decider against the fifth-seeded Bulldogs (14-11), who had beaten fourth-seeded Bordentown and top-seeded Cinnaminson to get here, was going to come down to a nail-biting seventh.
Just as Fischer mowed down Rumson hitters, Bulldogs starter Shane McCarthy — a Seton Hall-bound senior — did the same for five innings.
The Ravens managed to scratch out a run in the fifth after McCarthy hit Alex Matt with two outs and Ben Sanders followed with a single to put runners on first and second. McKiernan delivered an RBI single, making it 1-0.
“It took a huge weight off everyone’s shoulders, that one run in the fifth inning,” McKiernan said. “One run, that’s all we need because we’re a small-ball team. That’s what we are, just small ball and that’s a huge hit that I had.”
Although one run would have been enough for Fischer, the Ravens made sure he had a cushion, busting the game open with six runs in the sixth as McCarthy began to tire.
The Ravens loaded the bases with one out on a walk and two base hits before Tommy McKiernan came up with an RBI single to double the lead.
Matt got hit by another pitch, making it 3-0, and Sanders and Ryan Fischer each added two-run singles.
McCarthy went 5 1/3 innings and was charged with all seven runs, allowing nine hits and striking out three. He got help in the second inning, keeping Robbinsville off the board when right fielder Chris Drummond threw out courtesy runner Ryan Krebs trying to score from second on a Ryan Fischer single for the third out.
“Their pitcher was slowing down,” Danny McKiernan said. “We were rattling him and getting more and more hits off of him. We felt confident every time we went up.”
Meanwhile, the Ravens’ ace was doing what he does best.
Rumson only had two runners reach second base, and one of those came with two outs in the seventh as Fischer located his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes.
“He’s probably the best pitcher we’ve seen this year that used all three of his pitches successfully,” Bulldogs manager Kevin James said. “He doesn’t overpower you with one pitch, but he has three pitches that can beat you.”
The victory gave Robbinsville its first sectional title at the Group II level since making the move up from Group I, advancing it to the group semifinals. The Ravens won a pair of sectional crowns in 2008 and 2010 in Group I and lost the Group II final in 2012.
“It’s awesome,” Fischer said. “Being the first one, it’s really special. We’ve worked hard all year for it and we deserve it.”