BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- When heavy thundershowers Sunday night into Monday rendered the Ridge High School baseball field unplayable on Monday, the Red Devils' state tournament opener was rescheduled for Tuesday.
That extra day gave undefeated Ridge ace Cooper Bobowicz pitching eligibility he would not have had on Monday. Bobowicz allowed one hit in 5 1/3 innings and drove in a run to lift Ridge to a 4-1 victory over Piscataway in the first round of the Section 2, Group 4 state tournament.
Bobowicz had thrown 84 pitches Friday night in the Somerset County Tournament championship game which Ridge eventually lost in 12 innings, 6-5, to Immaculata. That required he rest three full days. On the fourth day--Tuesday--state pitch count rules allowed the big left-hander eligibility for 66 pitches.
And Bobowicz (9-0) and his Red Devils teammates were so efficient in their victory over Piscataway (9-15) that they barely gave their schoolmates stuck in class time to come down the hill after school and see the end of the game. The first pitch was thrown at 2 p.m. as a concession to Piscataway, which had a previously scheduled Senior Night event on their own home field. Tuesday's game was over before 3:30 p.m.--a marked contrast to Ridge's 4-hour, eight-minute marathon last Friday.
Bobowicz struck out seven batters and walked two. The only run against him was unearned.
Chris Parker and Brendan Bell each went 2-for-3 with one RBI, Jayden Hylton also went 2-for-3 and Greg Bozzo hit a home run for Ridge (16-9). The Red Devils broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third. Parker hit a one-out single, stole second and scored on Bell's double to right-center. In the fifth inning, Jason Arrigo led off with a single and reached second on an outfield error. He scored on a single to left-center by Parker for a 2-0 lead.
Piscataway, whose only hit off Bobowicz came from No. 9 hitter Jayden Brown in the third inning, mounted a threat in the sixth inning when the first two Chiefs batters each reached on infield errors. Bobowicz then struck out the No. 3 batter for the first out, but he surpassed his pitch limit during that at-bat. Ridge coach Tom Blackwell summoned third baseman Bell to take over on the mound, and Piscataway loaded the baseman on a hit batsman.
The next batter, Roldan Morris, singled to right field, bringing in one run. But Ridge right fielder Hylton threw out the runner at the plate trying to score from second on the hit, cutting down the tying run on a good tag by Bozzo, the catcher.
Ridge then plated two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. Bozzo led off the half inning with a home run to left before Hylton singled and stole second. One out later, Bobowicz cracked an RBI double to deep left-center for a 4-1 lead.
After Piscataway started the seventh with a leadoff single, Bell completed the save by getting a strikeout and two groundballs to end the game.
Ridge, the second seed, will host 10th-seeded Elizabeth in the quarterfinal round Thursday in another 2 p.m. start. Ridge's senior prom is Thursday night.