RUMSON – The top-seeded Bulldogs already knew entering Saturday’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II quarterfinal game with ninth-seed Bordentown that a win against the Scotties would set up a semifinal rematch with fourth-seeded Voorhees.
The Vikings eliminated Rumson-Fair Haven in last year’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II semifinals and went on to capture the sectional title before completing its run to the NJSIAA Group II championship.
In that game, Voorhees scored three runs in the top of the tenth inning to win after the Bulldogs had scored four in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
For senior second baseman Brian Doherty, who lined an RBI ground-rule double over the left-centerfield fence in the bottom of the first to give the Bulldogs a quick 1-0 lead, the loss to Voorhees is still fresh in his mind.
“We now get the chance to get back at Voorhees,” Doherty said after the Bulldogs 4-2 win over Bordentown Saturday. “We know they’re a great program so it’s exciting. And considering what they took from us last year and them also being the Group II champions last year, a little payback would be sweet.”
Rumson head coach Owen Stewart has seen Doherty come through in the clutch all season.
“That first inning run was huge,” said Stewart of Doherty’s RBI double. “That’s what he’s done for us really all season. He’s a guy we want up in those big situations – he hits third or fourth in the lineup for us for a reason. He hit two or other balls today really hard today but right at someone.”
Coming off his worst outing of the season, Saturday’s starting and winning pitcher Charlie Jones (5-2, 1.26 ERA) returned to the form that has jettisoned his status as one of the elite pitchers in the Shore.
The hard throwing righty went six innings without giving up an earned run. He allowed just one hit and struck out 10 while walking two and hitting a batter. Jones struck out the side in order in the fourth and ended his outing strong with his tenth K for the third out in the top of the sixth.
“I felt good, it was nice bouncing back especially in an important game like this,” said Jones of his outing. “I had a short-term memory out there. Everyone had my back and helped me forget my last start. They helped me just get into this game and stay competitive, stay angry and just stay hungry.
“Initially I was working all fastballs mostly for the first two innings,” said Jones of his pitch selection. “In the third inning I started with a curve ball and it felt like it was there so I started working off of that like I normally do and then added my slider in the fourth.”
Stewart wasn’t surprised by the way Jones bounced back and battled Saturday.
“He did a nice job today although he would tell you he didn’t have his very best stuff,” said Stewart. “But he had enough to get through and get back to competing. He got himself back to some basics not trying to do to much and just got back to competing in the strike zone.”
When asked about the Bulldogs pitching staff Stewart smiled and said, “we’re spoiled, we have a lot of guys who can pitch.” Rumson’s pitching staff as a whole has a team ERA of 2.07. Their three top starters: Jones, John Goodes and Jackson Hinchliffe have a combined ERA of 1.48.
In the bottom of the third, the Bulldogs brought out the lumber hammering back-to-back-to-back extra base hits to take a 3-0 lead. Senior first baseman Matt Rigby tattooed a ball over the centerfielder's head for a leadoff triple and came around to score when senior left fielder John Bruno laced an RBI double into left centerfield.
Senior Liam Murphy followed with a double off the leaping centerfielders glove sending Bruno all the way home for another run and 3-0 lead.
At that point it looked like Bulldogs were about to send Bordentown starting pitcher Elijah Tradigo to the showers, but the gutsy sophomore retired the next three batters in order to get out of the inning. He surrendered just one more hit the rest of the way, but it was a home run by Rumson’s Owen Kenney that gave Bulldogs a 4-0 lead.
Kenney – a junior shortstop and number two batter in the lineup – took a Tradigo offering deep over the left field fence for his fourth home run of the season, which leads the team.
Bordentown scored unearned runs in the third and sixth innings but never mounted any real threat to the Bulldogs as Jones never flinched.
Goodes (0.96 ERA) relived Jones in the top of the seventh and set the side down in order on sic pitches for the save.
“I really didn’t think about it (finishing), but Goodes hadn’t really thrown in a while and we wanted to make sure he got some work and stayed hot,” said Jones, who threw 96 pitches Saturday. “It’s also nice knowing we have guys like Goodes just knowing I don’t have throw complete games. I trust his stuff and the way he competes. He was super-efficient today getting three outs on six pitches. I’m always confident in him.”
Goodes or Hinchliffe will get the start in Tuesday's semifinal.
Stewart wasn’t going to let Jones out for the seventh. “Once he got over 90 (pitches), especially with his outing last time, I wanted to get him out of there with a success. We had Johnny Goodes ready to go and he hadn’t pitched in a while.”
The Bulldogs have a nucleus of seniors who have been the guiding force and catalyst behind their success and they want nothing more than to go out on top with a state championship.
“I can’t overstate how important a sectional title would be for this program,” said Doherty. “It’s what we’ve been working for for four year’s or even longer than that. We’ve got six of seven guys on the team that have been playing varsity ball together since freshman year and working towards that goal and it’s there for us to grab.”
Stewart has a lot of respect for Voorhees and knows Rumson will be in for a battle.
“They’re a quality team and one of the few teams in the state that can match our intensity and match how we like to play,” said Stewart. “So it’s going to be a fun one on Tuesday that’s for sure.”
As the No.1 seed Rumson (20-4) will host Voorhees (16-8) on Tuesday, June 7 with time TBD.