Brent Rubena doesn't see himself as a No. 9 hitter, and he sure didn't act like one in the biggest game of his young career.
The sophomore outfielder broke a 3-3 tie with a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh inning as second-seeded Gateway defeated top-seeded Pitman, 4-3, yesterday for the South Jersey Group 1 baseball championship.
Rubena went 1 for 2 with a run scored and the RBI in helping Gateway win its second sectional title. The Gators (17-5) will face Central Jersey champion David Brearley at 4 p.m. Tuesday in a state semifinal at Rider.
"I wanted to get the ball in the air," Rubena said. "All I was thinking was getting the run in."
This was a game with a couple of unusual plays, one coming shortly before Rubena broke the tie.
Teammate Shane Sweeney, who opened the seventh with a single and went to second on Joe Stewart's base hit, was caught leaning too far off second base.
When the catcher's pickoff throw went to second, Sweeney took off and easily made it to third base. He scored on Rubena's sacrifice fly.
"I always seem to get in predicaments like that," Sweeney said.
In the bottom of the seventh, the game ended in a confusing fashion. Pitman's Nick Capelli kept the Panthers alive with a two-out single off winning pitcher Dom DePasquale and stole second.
Teammate Rob Cressman walked, and that's when the confusion began.
On the pitch, Capelli headed toward third base, then stopped. Gateway catcher Rick Ponto threw to third, catching Capelli in a rundown. The play (2-5-6-5) ended with Capelli tagged out at third.
Yet third base umpire Herb Robinson made what both teams thought was a safe signal.
"It looked like the umpire made a few gestures, and it looked like he gestured safe, and then out," Gateway coach Frank Alloway said.
At first, Pitman thought the game hadn't ended, but after the umpires conferred, the out call was upheld.
"He was out before he got to the bag, and that was the call," Robinson said afterward.
Pitman (16-7) received a fine performance from Cressman, who allowed three unearned runs in six innings.
Under NJSIAA pitching rules, Cressman was eligible to throw six innings yesterday. He moved to second base in the seventh.
DePasquale (8-1) went the distance for Gateway. The visitors scored three unearned runs in the third inning. The key blows were an RBI single by Nick Rutter and a sacrifice fly by Chris Patterson.
Adam Satanoff and Steve Schuler hit RBI singles for Pitman, which also scored an unearned run.
"Our kids are battlers, but unfortunately we didn't play our best game," Pitman coach Gene Reid said.
There were many who figured in the victory, one that will hold a special place for Rubena.
"I'll never forget that [RBI]," he said. "When the banner is hanging up in the school years from now, I'll know that I drove in the winning run."
Gateway 003 000 1 - 4 8 2
Pitman 012 000 0 - 3 5 4
WP: Dom DePasquale. LP: Adam Satanoff.