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RUMSON -- John Goodes not only prefers to be a starter over a relief pitcher; he has proven he is one of the better starting pitchers you will find around the Jersey Shore.

It's just that the junior right-hander and Rutgers commit is so very good at coming out of the bullpen and Rumson-Fair Haven coach Owen Stewart can't help but call on his relief-ace-slash-number-two-starter in a pinch.

After his Bulldogs team -- ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 -- rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third inning to take a 4-3 lead Wednesday against No. 5 Red Bank Catholic, Goodes got the call to take over for junior starter Jackson Hinchcliffe and shut the Caseys down, helping Rumson win by a final of 4-3.

"Going into (Tuesday), I was starting this game today, but then our Shore (Regional) game got pushed back to (Thursday) because of umpires, so we had to adjust," Goodes said. "We're lucky we have a lot of pitching. I relieved last year, so I'm used to it. It's the same mindset from the start. I warm up fast anyway and I bounce back quickly. It's the same routine every day."

Rumson-Fair Haven senior John Goodes. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Rumson-Fair Haven junior John Goodes. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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Goodes retired the first 10 batters he faced before a bunt single by Caseys senior Jack Meyers with one out in the top of the seventh broke up the run of relief perfection.

"He pitches with something to prove out of the bullpen," Rumson coach Owen Stewart said. "He is like any other great bullpen pitcher: he wants to be a game one starter. Every time he is out there, that's his mindset: he is just proving to everybody that he's a starter."

Red Bank Catholic actually mounted a serious threat in its final turn at-bat after three silent innings against Goodes, with Goodes hitting No. 9 hitter Nico Gonzalez and Red Bank Catholic junior centerfielder Alex Stanyek smoking a ground ball off Goodes's foot for an infield single that loaded the bases with one out.

Comfortable in difficult situations, though, Goodes struck out Seton Hall commit Frank Scrivanic and got Monmouth commit Matt Scrivanic to ground into a fielder's choice to end the threat and the game.

"Confidence is my biggest thing out there in that situation," Goodes said. "Coach Stewart always tells me, 'You have to be the guy, you want to be the guy to get that last out.'"

Senior right-hander and Wake Forest commit Charlie Jones entered the 2022 season as Rumson-Fair Haven's No. 1 starter after an All-Shore junior season in which he started and won multiple games against high-level opponents. Goodes, though, was a highly-effective reliever for most of his sophomore season and began to take the ball as a starter late in the 2021 schedule.

"Charlie was the perfect guy to look up to last year," Goodes said. "I remember we played (Red Bank Catholic) last year and faced Shane (Panzini) and Charlie matched him and then it ended up being me vs. Stanyek in extra innings. It's a battle and sometimes you learn more from watching from the dugout and he is the perfect guy to look up to."

He earned the opening-day start this season and has been dominant in that role, but over the last two weeks, Rumson has twice needed him to close games out and he has picked up a win with a scoreless outing each time.

Goodes features a two-seam fastball with significant sink to it that neutralized the Red Bank Catholic lineup, as well as a slider to complement it.

"I go all two-seam and the two-seam breaks right, the slider breaks left," Goodes said. "I'll throw a changeup occasionally. The slider was working well enough and the two-seam dropped enough where I didn't have to use (the changeup) much."

Rumson jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a first-inning RBI single by senior Matt Rigby, who later tied the game with his second RBI of the game -- a sacrifice fly in Rumson's three-run third. Senior Brian Doherty then crushed a ground-rule double to left-centerfield, but the ball bouncing out of play forced Rigby to be held up at third rather than scoring a second Bulldogs run. Caseys freshman Dylan Passo then got out of the jam with a strikeout.

RBC tied the game with a two-out RBI single by Gonzalez, with the Caseys pieces together the entire scoring sequence with two out. Senior Jake Jacobson walked with two out and worked a textbook hit-and-run with Meyers to put runners on the corners for Gonzalez, who smacked his RBI single into centerfield.

RBC jumped on top in the top of the third when junior catcher Shane Andrus crushed his fifth home run of the year -- a two-run laser over the leftfield fence. The two RBI were Nos. 26 and 27 on the season for the locked-in RBC backstop.

Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann congratulates junior catcher Shane Andrus as he rounds third base following his fifth home run of the season. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann congratulates junior catcher Shane Andrus as he rounds third base following his fifth home run of the season. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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Rumson came right back with three runs in the bottom of the inning, with Rigby knocking one run off the deficit with his sac fly to centerfield that scored senior Owen Kenney, who walked and stole second base.

Doherty then followed with another deep drive to center, this time over the head of Stanyek and in play for an RBI triple that scored junior centerfielder Reece Moroney. Stanyek had already robbed senior shortstop Charlie Tallman of extra bases in the second inning with a running, over-the-shoulder catch in deep center, but Doherty hit it out of his range for a game-tying triple.

Senior Liam Murphy followed with another sacrifice fly to score Doherty and give the Bulldogs the 4-3 lead.

Moroney was a catalyst for Rumson throughout the game, particularly in the two run-scoring innings. He went 3-for-3 with three singles, stole three bases and scored two of the four Bulldogs runs.

Red Bank Catholic also brought in a reliever to shut down Rumson, with sophomore Steve Svenson following Passo's four innings with two scoreless frames. Svenson gave up a single to Moroney with one out in the fifth, then struck out the final five batters who stepped in against him.

Rumson-Fair Haven senior Brian Doherty. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Rumson-Fair Haven senior Brian Doherty. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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With Wednesday's win, Rumson is now 3-0-1 against Red Bank Catholic over the past two seasons, including a win over the Caseys in last year's Monmouth County Tournament championship game.

"They are one of the best teams in the Shore," Goodes said of Red Bank Catholic. "They have been the best, they have dominated at times, they are respectable, they play hard. They are similar to us and we know most of them. It's like playing backyard baseball against a great team and there's mutual respect between each team. And it's great to come out on top."

Rumson's offensive performance left Stewart and his team somewhat underwhelmed, but the second-year head coach -- who was hired for the 2020 season that was never played and made his head-coaching debut last season -- is happy that his squad is again finding ways to win close games against quality opponents. Rumson beat Ranney, 3-2, in a high-profile showdown on April 16 and rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Monmouth, 4-3, in a game won by Goodes in relief and that ended with a Matt Rigby RBI single in the bottom of the seventh.

"We would like to have had a little more success scoring runs today and I think that's something that's going to motivate us going forward," Stewart said. "We have gotten comfortable playing offense with some big leads, so showing some character, being able to win when we don't play our best, it's been encouraging to see."

The Bulldogs are not participating in the Monmouth County Tournament, but will be tested in the days leading up to the Shore Conference Tournament. After a second meeting against Shore Regional on Thursday after no-hitting the Blue Devils last week, Rumson will play Red Bank Catholic again on Friday, Ramapo on Saturday (weather permitting) and Ocean twice next week.

Rumson hopes to have the Class A Central division championship wrapped up by Friday, which the Bulldogs can do by beating both Shore and RBC. Jones is slated to pitch Friday night against the Caseys at Count Basie Park in Red Bank.

Box Score

Rumson-Fair Haven 4, Red Bank Catholic 3

1234567RHE
RBC (13-4, 9-4)0120000360
Rumson-FH (12-0, 10-0)103000X471

Pitching

Red Bank CatholicIPHRERBBSOPC
Dylan Passo (L, 0-1)46441578
Steve Svenson21000533
Rumson-Fair HavenIPHRERBBSOPC
Jackson Hinchcliffe34332158
John Goodes (W, 5-0)42000758

Top Hitters

Red Bank CatholicGame Stats
Shane Andrus1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI
Sean Griggs1-3, R
Nico Gonzalez1-2, HBP, RBI
Jack Meyers2-3
Rumson-Fair HavenGame Stats
Brian Doherty2-3, 2B, 3B, R, RBI
Reece Moroney3-3, 2 R, 3 SB
Matt Rigby1-2, 2 RBI
Johnny Bruno1-3