JW Graduate Goode making impact for SU baseball

By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI | The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Though Shenandoah University junior baseball player Nick Goode says Jake Loew “beats me all the time” at ping pong, that’s not the reason why Goode is Loew’s favorite person to play the game with.

“No matter what he’s doing, he wants to beat you,” said Loew, the Hornets’ All-American designated hitter. “We’re hitting the ball back and forth, yelling at each other. It’s just a fun competition, because he’s such a competitive guy.”

And what Goode — a 2014 James Wood graduate — wants even more than to knock off Loew at ping pong is beating whichever team is lined up across SU.

Goode’s desire to be part of the Hornets’ winning culture is why he transferred to SU this year from Hagerstown (Md.) Communuity College.

And because he has enjoyed it so much, he’s thrived in the field and at the plate despite being moved to center field from the shortstop position he’s played the vast majority of the time since he was 10 years old.

“I love Shenandoah,” said Goode while sitting in the third-base dugout at Bridgeforth Field last week. “Obviously it’s home for me, and it’s helped a lot being around family.

“But Shenandoah’s a great school, and coach [Kevin] Anderson has a great program here. You learn a lot as soon as you step on the field. The winning mentality at Shenandoah, that’s what I wanted to be a part of when I got here. And being around all these guys, I’ve loved it.”

Goode is as big a reason as any why the Hornets earned their eighth NCAA Division III tournament berth in nine seasons this year. Ranked 10th in the nation in both major polls, the Hornets (36-8) open up play in the eight-team Mid-Atlantic Region bracket at 7:45 p.m. Thursday against Maritime (N.Y.) College at York (Pa.) College.

The 6-foot, 175-pound Goode ranks among SU’s top five in most of the major statistical categories — batting average (.347, third), runs (33, fifth), hits (50, fifth), doubles (15, first), RBIs (33, second), slugging (.479, second), walks (23, fourth), on-base percentage (.457, second) and stolen bases (five, third).

“He’s been a major impact player for us, a Dean’s List student, and an intense competititor,” said Anderson, winner of 420 games in his 14 seasons at SU. “He looks like a natural in the outfield. He’s a very streaky hitter, and when he’s hot, he can carry the baseball team.”

The Hornets have been interested in Goode ever since he was in high school. Anderson has known Goode for years through the Hornets’ camps, and Anderson and Goode’s father, Kevin, were both part of James Wood’s 1979 graduating class.

Goode — who had a strong year as a Colonels junior with a .373 average, 19 RBIs and 15 runs — had his sights set on a preferred walk-on spot at NCAA Division II Shepherd University after graduating.

Goode transferred to Hagerstown after one semester (he prefers not to discuss why it didn’t work out), and his two-year career with the Hawks did wonders for his baseball career.

In 2015, Goode hit .313 with 20 RBIs, 40 runs, 12 stolen bases and a .449 on-base percentage, and he followed that up by hitting .329 with 32 RBIs, 31 runs, 10 stolen bases and a .449 OBP in 2016.

Goode currently spends a great deal of time doing extra hitting work with Loew at SU, and individual work he put in at HCC with assistant coach Andrew Zeger paid off in taking Goode to another level as a hitter.

“Whenever I had a slump, he had different drills that would help me with driving my hips straight to the ball,” Goode said. “When you get to college, you see a lot more breaking balls. Going to a junior college helped me stay back and drive the curveball the other way or up the middle. [Playing at HCC] helped me mature as a hitter at the plate.”

Goode didn’t waste much time showing he can hit at SU. Though he didn’t play in the season-openign doubleheader against Misericordia on Feb. 18, he went 2 for 3 with a run in both games of the next day’s doubleheader on Feb. 19 against preseason No. 4 LaRoche. Goode added a double, two RBIs and a walk in the second game.

Hitting mostly fifth (behind the cleanup hitter Loew) or sixth this season, Goode’s offensive impact has been a constant for the most part.

Goode — who had a walk-off single to beat Lynchburg on March 12 and the game-winning hit in the 12th inning against Randolph-Macon on April 22 — credits the teammates around him for forcing pitchers to give him good pitches to hit. But Loew said there’s no question that pitchers have been wary about what Goode can do.

“Against Emory & Henry he had six hits in two games,” said Loew, referencing the Feb. 8 twinbill that saw Goode go 4 for 4 with four RBIs, a run and a walk in the second game that day. “I got on base a few times too and was on first or second, and he drove me in almost every single time.

“It’s a lot of fun when you know you have an energetic, good bat behind you.”

Another notable aspect of Goode’s performance in the second game against E&H was that it marked his first game this year at center field.

“He made a lot of great plays, but he struggled defensively [at shortstop],” Anderson said. “He lost his confidence, and that started carrying over a little bit offensively. I know he wanted to be our shortstop, but we needed to make that change for the best interests of the ballclub.”

SU had actually seen Goode play some center field at Hagerstown when the Hornets’ developmental team played the Hawks, and the Hornets made sure to get him plenty of outfield reps in the fall in case they decided that was his best fit.

Goode’s strong hitting performance right away showed that he wasn’t going to let his position switch get him down, and was just another reminder how invested he is in SU’s team success.

“I knew it was what the team needed, and I knew it was a way I could help the team,” Goode said. “It wasn’t much of a different approach going from shortstop to center field.

“I didn’t expect to do as well as I’ve probably done. As far as running balls down, I think that I’ve surprised myself. Running down balls in the gap and getting good reads is probably what’s helped the team the most.”

Loew said, “every ball that’s hit, you think he’s going to catch it.”

Goode believes he’s also a better hitter as a result of the move to the outfield, because he no longer has to think about his defensive responsibilities as much.

During the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament, Anderson moved Goode into the No. 3 spot in the Hornets’ order for the first time this year, and he went 5 for 17 (.294) with four runs, one double and two RBIs.

Anderson said Goode might not necessarily continue to hit third in the regional tournament, but he liked the idea of having someone with Goode’s speed and base-running acumen batting early.

“Having him in the three-hole gives us three above-average runners in a row,” Anderson said. “And one thing that doesn’t show up in the boxscore is that his instincts on the bases are as good as anybody I’ve ever coached. He knows how to read balls in the dirt, when to take the extra base, how to get good jumps. It really puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Whatever Goode can do to help his team succeed, he’s all for.

“Playing with these guys has been amazing,” Goode said. “When our pitching, hitting and defense all come together, it’s a lot of fun. Hopefully we can put an exclamation point on the end of this season.”

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