Baseball – Huge Fifth Inning Powers Jones, Rumson to SCT Upset of No. 1 Jackson Memorial
JACKSON TWP. - Even before he took the mound Saturday in Jackson to face the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference Tournament field, Rumson-Fair Haven junior right-hand pitcher Charlie Jones had already gone toe-to-toe with the best and gave his team a chance to come out with the victory.
Back on May 8, Jones pitched seven innings of one-hit ball going up against Red Bank Catholic ace and Major League Baseball Draft hopeful Shane Panzini and although he didn't get credit for the win, his team pulled out the upset in extra innings.
Saturday against Jackson Memorial, this win was all his - with an assist to a lineup that supplied a well-timed burst of offense.
Jones pitched a three-hit complete game and Rumson exploded for all five runs and six of its seven hits in the top of the fifth inning to knock off top-seeded Jackson Memorial and senior ace Matt Potok, 5-2, to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinal.
"Charlie just wants the ball," Rumson-Fair Haven coach Owen Stewart said. "It doesn't matter what the situation is, he thinks he's the best guy to have the ball. He thinks he's the best guy to hit for us too, most of the time. He just has this ultimate confidence that he came out with this year that I don't know if he had as a freshman a couple years ago. He has really grabbed the reins and has been our guy."
Rumson-Fair Haven has now beaten the top two teams in the latest Shore Sports Network rankings and done so when both of the teams threw their senior aces. Saturday marked the first time Potok suffered a loss in his high-school career and while that does not technically included last summer's Last Dance Word Series - the substitute for the canceled 2020 spring season - Potok was also 3-0 in that tournament.
"He's a stud," Jones said of Potok. "The fact that we were able to put five across against him is almost unbelievable.
"It was the same mindset as facing Panzini, which is that we are underdogs. They are the top team in the Shore, they're throwing their ace, and we're just thinking our backs are against the wall and we have nothing to lose."
For the first four innings on Saturday, Jones and Potok matched zeroes and Rumson appeared to miss its best opportunity against the Coastal Carolina commit when it stranded runners on the corners to end the top of the first inning. Potok proceeded to retire nine of the next 11 batters he faced over the ensuing three innings, striking out seven and allowing the two base-runners on a hit-by-pitch and a walk on a 3-2 fastball did not miss the outside corner by much.
Jones, however, was game. The 6-foot-5 junior also stranded a pair of runners in the first inning and retired nine of the next 10 he faced, with the lone Jackson Memorial baserunner between the second and third innings reaching on an infield single.
In the top of the fifth, Potok appeared poised to keep the shutout rolling along. Rumson junior second baseman Charlie Tallman lined a single to right field with one out, but Potok came back with a strikeout and had sophomore third baseman Reece Moroney set up with a 0-2 count with two out. Tallman ran on the pitch and Potok spun a slider that broke over the middle of the plate but was ruled a just a tad low by the home plate umpire for ball two.
Two pitches later, Moroney lined another Potok slider down the left-field line for an RBI double that broke the scoreless tie and opened the floodgates for the Bulldogs. Senior centerfielder Thomas Elgrim followed with a single through the middle to chase home Moroney, then junior left fielder Brian Doherty hammered a double to the left-centerfield fence to score Elgrim from first and make the score 3-0.
"We have been doing a great job of lumping our hits together," Stewart said. "We have had a ton of big innings like that all year, so once they get rolling, they are first-pitch swinging, ready and aggressive. Sometimes we just need that first one to give us a start and that's what Charlie did for us with the great two-strike at-bat."
Sophomore catcher Owen Kenney kept the hit parade going with an RBI single down the line in left to score Doherty and chase Potok from the game. Now facing senior Ty Beck, junior first baseman Matt Rigby ended the run of four straight RBI hits by taking a two-out walk, followed by an RBI single to right field by junior Johnny Bruno to extend the lead to 5-0.
"It was fantastic to watch but honestly, it's nothing new," Jones said of the five-run rally. "We have been clutch like that all season. We get big hits in big spots and that's why we win our games."
Rumson has gotten big hits from many sources over the course of the season, but Tallman and Moroney have been particularly frequent in their contributions to big rallies. Tallman was also the player who doubled to start the winning rally against Red Bank Catholic and Moroney established himself as one of the team's clutch hitters early in the season. He added to that reputation by starting the string of four straight RBI hits by Rumson-Fair Haven.
"We had them flipped at the beginning of the year and then Charlie (Tallman) was dealing with an ankle injury, so he had to sit for the last week of the preseason," Stewart said. "When that happened, we moved Reece up to two and he really took off. When Charlie came back, it was a no-brainer to slot him into a roll he is comfortable with to be the pesky guy down at the bottom of the lineup. Those two guys get lost in the shuffle sometimes, but they make teams have to pick their poison and it gives us a pretty deep lineup."
Jones returned to the mound now pitching with a five-run cushion, but determined not to let up against a Jackson Memorial lineup with the firepower to erase a five-run deficit. The first batter of the bottom of the fifth, sophomore J.R. Osmond battled Jones for 10 pitched and on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, he smoked a line drove off Jones's left upper thigh. The glancing blow ricocheted toward shortstop, where Schmid bare-handed the ball and fired to first for a dazzling first out of the fifth inning.
Moroney gloved a hard ground ball and threw to first for the second out of the frame and Jones capped a huge shutdown inning with a strikeout to send the game to the sixth.
"As a pitcher, it's a relief, but you can't believe you have a 5-0 lead," Jones said. "I told myself that I was losing, 5-0, just so I kept my edge and stayed shoving."
"He did a great job mentally to keep himself ready to go back out there," Stewart said of Jones. "A lot of times, long innings can be tough on a pitcher, but he stayed ready, did some throwing in the dugout and got back out there and went back to work."
Jackson Memorial finally broke onto the scoreboard in the sixth, with junior second baseman Chris Cartnick lining a two-out RBI single to left field to score senior catcher Zach Rogacki, who walked to lead off the inning. Sophomore Tom Kendrick worked a walk to load the bases with two out and Jones struck out Osmond with a curveball that clipped the inside corner on a 2-2 pitch.
"They're going to hunt fastballs, so early in that game, I'm throwing breaking balls 0-0, 1-0, 0-1 - pretty much any count is breaking balls," Jones said. "If I throw fastballs, it's just to show what I can do. My curveball is my best pitch, so to face a team like this, where I get to throw a lot of curveballs, it's the best thing."
In the bottom of the seventh, Jackson Memorial mounted a two-out resistance, which included a walk by Rogacki and Beck reaching on the only error of the game by either team. Jones was at 108 pitches and in order to finish the game within the single-game limit, he would have to retire junior and No. 3 hitter Zach Crotchfelt. With the tying run in the on-deck circle, Jones got a 2-2 count on Crotchfelt and got him to chance the curveball for his six strikeout on his 113th pitch, clinching the win for the Bulldogs.
Rumson moves on to play at No. 5 Middletown South, 3-0 winners over rival Middletown North on Saturday, in Wednesday's semifinal round. The Bulldogs are also still alive in the race for the Shore Conference Class A Central division championship and are scheduled to play St. Rose twice and one last division game against current division leader Red Bank Catholic on Friday. If Rumson wins its first three games of the week - including the SCT semifinal at Middletown South - there is a chance the Bulldogs could be playing for a division championship on Friday and a Shore Conference Tournament title on Saturday.
"It's a fun problem to have," Stewart said. "We have a lot of division baseball left to play with this (SCT) on top of it, and then states start next week. So we've got everything in front of us and that's when these guys wanted."
"I thought we had a chance to win this from the get-go," Jones said. "If we throw our pitchers at the right times, I'm not worried about our offense too much. This definitely strengthens that belief, but a team like ours, we can't get too big-headed. We have to stay humble and these games just show us that we play better when our backs are against the wall."
Rumson-Fair Haven 5, Jackson Memorial 2
|Charlie Jones (W)||7||3||2||2||5||6||113|
|Matt Potok (L)||4.2||6||5||5||2||9||91|
|Rumson-Fair Haven||Game Stats|
|Thomas Elgrim||2-4, R, RBI|
|Reece Moroney||1-3, 2B, BB, R, RBI|
|Owen Kenney||1-3, BB, RBI|
|Johnny Bruno||1-2, HBP, RBI|
|Brian Doherty||1-4, 2B, R, RBI|
|Charlie Tallman||1-3, R, SB|
|Jackson Memorial||Game Stats|
|Chris Cartnick||1-3, RBI|
|Zach Rogacki||0-2, 2 BB, 2 R|
|Zach Crotchfelt||1-3, BB|