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Rancocas Valley ends Absegami’s playoff run with 4-1 win in SJ Group 4 semifinals

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Rancocas Valley loaded the bases in the second inning and had two on and nobody out in the third against Absegami in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals on Tuesday afternoon and failed to score. So when Drew Tumbelty drew a leadoff walk to start the top of the fifth, Braves senior lefty Brandon Bowen figured, OK, no big deal. Just work out of another jam and give the offense a chance to build on a 1-0 lead. But two batters later, Stevie Stevenson drilled a fastball to deep centerfield for a 2-run home run, and the eighth-seeded Red Devils wiggled out of their own jam in the bottom of the seventh to win 4-1 and advance to the sectional title game. Rancocas Valley will face No. 11 Eastern, a winner over second-seeded Washington Township, ranked No. 10 in the state by nj.com. “We didn’t pitch great. We pitched well enough to have a chance to win but we just didn’t put it all together today,” Bowen said. “That’s unfortunate in the playoffs, but that’s how it goes.” “We didn’t come out in a real strong defensive rhythm and that’s a compliment to Rancocas Valley. They put the ball in play. We made plays, but we didn’t turn Senior Brandon Bowen allowed just two runs in five innings of work on Tuesday during Absegami's 4-1 loss to Rancocas Valley in the state playoffs. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Senior Brandon Bowen allowed just two runs in five innings of work on Tuesday during Absegami’s 4-1 loss to Rancocas Valley in the state playoffs. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) the double play when we should have, or we made that one error that stretched the inning a little bit,” said Absegami coach Brian Wastell. “We got out of it, but it’s championship-type baseball and you know good teams are going to keep plugging away at you and they did. “It really came down to we left one pitch up and they made the play.” Rancocas Valley (17-7) loaded the bases in the top of the second, but Bowen got a pop-up and a soft line-out to Buck Amend at shortstop to end the threat. Amend then made a great play in the third, cutting down Kwan Jones at the plate to foil a first-and-third, no-out advantage the Red Devils held. Bowen then got a flyout and a strikeout to end that threat. Absegami worked out of another jam in the top of the first, when first baseman Luke Harris tumbled over the fence in foul territory to snag a pop-up to end the inning. No. 5 Absegami (14-8) capitalized on its good fortune in the fourth, plating a run when Amend ripped a single to score courtesy runner Omar Nunez-Guerro. Bowen had set up second-and-third with a 2-out double to the fence in center. But one bad pitch in the fifth derailed what had been an inspiring playoff run by the Braves. Still, Wastell said Bowen deserves a lot of credit for keeping the Braves in a game that could have gotten out of hand in the early innings. “Brandon has been incredibly mature on the mound. He’s been the proverbial bulldog, and he kind of thrives sometimes on pressure situations,” Wastell said. “He did it against Cherokee, bases loaded with one out in the first inning and he got out of it. He did that again here today. Their kid just made a play, that’s the bottom line.” Shortstop Buck Amend makes a diving stop of a ground ball up the middle to save a run. Shortstop Buck Amend makes a diving stop of a ground ball up the middle to save a run. Rancocas Valley tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Tumbelty and a run-scoring groundout by Tim Zeng. Absegami brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, as Steve Hewa stroked a leadoff single and Matt Branco reached on an infield single. But Mason Anderson, who twirled a complete game, got Patrick Scheck to line out hard to centerfield before recording a pair of strikeouts to end the game. Bowen said the loss didn’t put too much of a damper on what has been an outstanding season for Absegami, which still has two regular-season games left on its schedule. “Senior year, it’s bittersweet. It’s nice that we put together the run we did. Obviously you’d like to finish it with a state title,” Bowen said. “But it’s kind of hard to be upset, in the grand scheme of things, when we did as much as we did (this season). I’m so proud of these guys. Every single one of these guys worked their butts off in practice. They wanted to be here. We were on a mission, this is the ultimate place to be. We got here, we just came up a little bit short, but that’s baseball.” Wastell said the seniors who led the Braves on this playoff run have certainly left their mark on the Absegami baseball program. “I’m proud of how these seniors have played their four years. There are a few multi-sport athletes who have brought their knowledge from other sports here to baseball. We never had to worry about the weight room and working out because they were there,” Wastell said. “We try to preach to these guys, what legacy are you going to leave to the next group? And what we told them (after the game) was the legacy left by this group is pretty high for this group of freshmen. We bring the freshmen and sophomores up for these games so they can see what these seniors have built for them. “We are very proud of how they have battled. To get to the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals is no easy task. Even right to the end we had a chance, and that’s all you can do in baseball is play your backside off and give yourself a chance.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays 

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