BASKING RIDGE, NJ - The Ridge baseball team was well aware that their position as the third seed in the Section 2, Group 4 state tournament was no guarantee.
Especially since the Red Devils' first-round opponent, North Hunterdon, had beaten them in their last meeting a few weeks ago with a dramatic seventh-inning comeback.
Again on Wednesday, the game was decided in the late innings, and again it was the Lions prevailing. North Hunterdon scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning for a 3-1 victory over Ridge, knocking the Red Devils out of the state tournament.
In a brilliant pitching duel between North Hunterdon left-hander John Wilson and Ridge righty Mike Rica, Ridge rallied to tie the game, 1-1, on an RBI single by Sean Spina in the bottom of the seventh after Matt Rusinak had started the rally with a single.
But that was the only tally Ridge could muster against Roberts, who went all nine innings, struck out 12, walked just one and allowed eight hits.
Rica was his equal for eight innings, though, allowing five hits and two walks and striking out two. North Hunterdon (16-11) did not score until the top of the seventh, and won the game on Matt Busher's two-run single in the ninth, after Matt Bates had come in to relieve Rica.
Ridge (15-9) could not cash in on threats in either the fourth or fifth innings. In the fourth, the Red Devils started the inning with singles by Rica and Ryan Pavlik and a sacrifice bunt by Bates. Wilson got a foul out and a strikeout to escape the jam. He also struck out a Ridge batter with a man on third to end the fifth inning.