LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. - They were rested and battle-tested after competing in South Jersey's deepest division and winning the Group 4 sectional tournament.

They were resilient, twice rallying from deficits and putting the tying runs on base after they were down to their last strike in the seventh inning.

They also were realistic.

"That was the best team we played all year," Washington Township coach Bill Alvaro Jr. said after the Minutemen dropped an 8-6 decision to Central Jersey champion Jackson Memorial in Wednesday's state Group 4 semifinal at Rider University.

Jackson Memorial (25-5) rapped 14 hits, including five for extra bases, in advancing to Saturday's state finals at Toms River East at 2 p.m.

"That was a great hitting team," said Washington Township senior pitcher Adam Warbuton, who went the distance in the final game of his high school career. "I was a little off, and they jumped on my fastball. More credit to them."

Warbuton and Nick Favatella hit home runs and Mark Jankowski delivered a two-run single for Washington Township (18-12), which won the South Jersey Group 4 title as the No. 13 seed.

"This senior class has been unbelievable," Alvaro Jr. said. "They might not be the most talented class we ever had, but no class ever worked harder."

Washington Township was a hardened team after competing in the Olympic American, playing in the Grand Slam Classic as well as the Diamond Classic, and upsetting four higher seeds on their home fields en route to the program's second sectional title since 2007.

The Minutemen went eye-to-eye with Jackson Memorial. They took a 2-0 lead on Warbuton's home run in the first, tied the game on Favatella's solo shot in the third, and took a 6-5 lead as Jankowski's two-run single was the key hit in a three-run rally in the sixth.

Washington Township might have done more damage in that inning, but designated hitter Jonny Morad's wicked line drive with the bases loaded and no outs against a drawn-in infield was right at shortstop Brandon Adams, who speared the ball.

"That's baseball," Alvaro Jr. said. "Sometimes, you hit bleeders that go through, and sometimes you hit line drives right at people. I thought we had a chance to finish them off, and Jonny smokes the ball and it was right at them."

Jackson Memorial answered with a sixth-inning rally of its own, getting doubles from Matt Meleo and Ian Booth and a home run from Alex Herceg. Another run scored on a throwing error.

"We made a couple mistakes that we haven't made in the playoffs, and that was the difference," Alvaro Jr. said. "They were the better team today."

Favatella, who has signed to play at Rutgers, said Jackson Memorial was the best team on Washington Township's schedule.

"They hit like no team we ever played before," Favatella said.

Warbuton called the season a success.

"It was the best season I could ask for," he said.

Washington Township   2010030 - 682

Jackson Memorial   120014x - 8141

WP: Neil Schulman. LP: Adam Warbuton. 2B: WT-Sean Nolan; JM-Brandon Adams, Ian Booth, Matt Meleo 2. HR: WT-Warburton, Nick Favatella; JM-Alex Herceg.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or panastasia@phillynews.com.