MANSFIELD TOWNSHIP - Senior Ashley Surran and coach Pam Pickett of the Buena Regional High School softball team hugged after the state Group II semifinal Tuesday afternoon.
"I'll miss you," Pickett said.
"I'll come back and visit," Surran said.
The Chiefs' players and coaches said goodbye after one of the best seasons in school history ended.
Robbinsville pitcher Lauren Fischer threw a one-hit shutout as the Ravens beat Buena 4-0 in the state Group II semifinal at Northern Burlington Regional High School.
Buena (26-5) still had one of the best seasons in school history. The Chiefs won a South jersey title for the first time since 1990.
"I think we had a great season," Buena standout senior shortstop Janessa Rios said. "This is one of the most memorable seasons I've had. We enjoyed this season. We had a great run."
Buena came into the game as the underdog. Robbinsville reached the state final the past two years. The Mercer County school won the state title in 2011.
Robbinsville batters produced hits in all six innings. Megan Hevey and Gaby Manto hit back-to-back doubles to give Robbinsville a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
The Ravens got singles from Hevey, Mento, Morgan Psiuk and Leanna Gearhart to score three more runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Meanwhile, Fischer struck out four and most of Buena's other outs came on soft pop flies to the infield.
Surran, Buena's leadoff hitter, blooped a single to center field in the top of the first inning for the Chiefs only hit.
Buena didn't get a runner past first base. Robbinsville doubled Surran off first base after a Buena hitter popped up a bunt and the Ravens catcher caught it. Only two Buena runners reached base – on a walk and a fielder's choice – in the final six innings.
Buena hitters said it was the spin on Fischer's ball and not her velocity which made her so tough to hit.
"She threw a beautiful ball game," Pickett said of Fischer, "but I was a little disappointed we didn't get a few more hits. I think we're better hitters than we showed but we were up against a good pitcher."
An energetic group of Buena fans filled the bleachers on the first base side at Northern Burlington. The school organized a fan bus for students. After the game, the Buena players and Pickett walked over the to the fans to thank them for making the trip.
"We have a lot of school spirit and it really showed," Rios said. "We're a tight-knit school."
The Buena players seemed more melancholy than sad after the defeat. The Chiefs took pride in what they accomplished this season. Many softball teams are built around dominant pitchers like Fisher. Buena featured good pitchers but the Chiefs had to rely on their hitting and defense to win.
Buena featured seven seniors many of whom played varsity as a sophomores.
"These seniors have been remarkable and fabulous together," Pickett said. "They didn't have it easy. I'm proud of where they brought each other, and we'll get back to the drawing board."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Buena Regional 000 000 0 – 0 1 1
Robbinsville 010 300 x – 410 0
2B-Hevey, Manto RV.
WP-Fischer 4K. LP-Fiocchi 4K.
Records-Buena Regional 26-5; Robbinsville 25-2