By Brian Deakyne
HOLMDEL – Rumson-Fair Haven didn’t hesitate when it went up early over Holmdel on Tuesday afternoon. Based on experience, the Bulldogs knew that no lead would be safe against the Hornets.
Last season, Rumson saw a 10-1 lead vanish in Holmdel as the Hornets rallied for an improbable 12-11 win.
But, the Bulldogs weren’t going to let that happen on Tuesday. After scoring five runs over the first two innings, Rumson stayed ahead of Holmdel all day, pulling away late for a 12-5 win.
“I’ll go with to jump on them early and stay on them all game long,” Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Gary Costello said of the team’s goals. “We’ve had a bunch of high-scoring games here at Holmdel, they’re capable of scoring runs, so our goal was to jump early and stay on top the whole game and play every pitch.”
“Last year we got up on them big here and then faced a horrible last couple innings and lost, so this is probably a redemption game for us,” senior centerfielder Jake Simpson said. “To come out and hit the ball like that is good.”
At one point, it appeared that Holmdel was geared to pull off another impressive comeback. In the bottom of the fifth inning and with three runs already in to make it a 7-5 game, Rumson pitcher Chris Jewett avoided any further damage, inducing a groundball with the bases loaded. Shortstop Max Goione handled it from there, stepping on second base and throwing to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
To ensure that there would be no doubt, the Bulldogs tacked on more runs after that. Rumson put together a five-run sixth inning to take a commanding 12-5 lead and essentially take any threat of a comeback out of Holmdel’s hands.
Third baseman Nick Maisto led off the top of the sixth by being hit by a pitch, and catcher Joey Spernal moved him to third base with a hard-hit double to right field. Maisto and Spernal were each plated by errors committed by Holmdel. Later in the inning, left fielder Nick Sulax belted a double to centerfield to bring home two more runs. Sulak later scored on Simpson’s triple to right field.
“I’m very, very happy with today’s game,” Costello said. “We have not been hitting the baseball until today. Our batters did a great job as far as approach goes, trying to stay behind the ball and driving the gaps, as we worked on all day in practice yesterday and they did a good job.”
Rumson jumped out to an early lead in the first inning. Maisto drove in Simpson and Goiono with a two-RBI double to right-center field after Simpson singled to open up the game and Goiono lifted a double to left-center field.
With a 3-1 lead, the Bulldogs added to it in the top of the second. Simpson drew a one-out walk, and after stealing second, Goione drove him in with a single to centerfield. Goino scored from third base two batters later when Spernal grounded into a fielders’ choice at second base.
“I think a lot of guys that haven’t been hitting started hitting the ball, so that was good,” Simpson said. “Throughout the whole lineup, we hit the ball well.”
With a 5-2 lead in the top of the fifth, Rumson added two more runs before Holmdel made a bid for a comeback in the bottom half of the inning. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with no outs as designated hitter Kenny Ferrare reached on an error, second basemen Chase Caruso drew a walk, and Sulak reached on a fielder’s choice at third base.
Right fielder Chris Drummound added to Rumson’s lead as his seeing-eye single to right field brought in courtesy runner Shane McCabe and Caruso scored in the next at-bat, when Simpson grounded out to third base.
In all, Simspon went 3-4 with a walk and an RBI.
“Our coach always stresses approach and my approach is to get on base and I got my job done,” Simspon said.
Rumson starting pitcher Stephen Christianson wasn’t great, but he was good enough to get the win for Rumson. Christianson lasted 4 1/3 innings, allowed five runs on six hits. He walked four batters and didn’t strike out any.
Jewett pitched the final 2 2/3 innings in relief of Christianson. He allowed four hits and no runs with one strikeout to preserve the victory.
“Our starting pitcher Stephen Christianson did a great job today,” Costello said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he worked through it like a workhorse and did a great, great job battling. He did an excellent job.”
The game lasted three hours and one minute as Rumson batted four full times through the lineup. The Bulldogs had seven different players register an RBI.