A year ago, Richie Goodenow was the unexpected hero as he tossed a complete-game, two-hit gem to keep Vanderbilt’s season alive in an NCAA Regional.
Nearly 13 months later, as the Commodores play in their first College World Series in Omaha, Neb., Goodenow no longer wears the Vanderbilt uniform. In fact, his college career is over; it has been for more than a month.
But the Nashville native doesn’t have any regrets when looking back at his decision to transfer from Vanderbilt to play his senior season at Lipscomb.
“It is not tough at all,” Goodenow said on Tuesday. “I could have been there [in Omaha] if I wanted to but I chose Lipscomb. Back then it was the right choice for me and it still was the right choice for me. I have no regrets at all coming to Lipscomb. At the same time, I wish Vanderbilt all the luck. I am rooting for them. I like everybody on the team. I like the coaches. They gave me an opportunity in the first place. ... I’d be happy to see them win it all.”
After graduating from Overton High School, Goodenow spent three years at Vanderbilt primarily as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
His junior campaign in 2010 was his strongest, posting a 2.23 ERA in a team-high 31 appearances. He struck out 47 and walked 12 in 44.1 innings. In his lone start of the season — and second overall in his career — on June 6 against Louisville, he allowed just two hits in a 7-0 shutout as Vanderbilt staved off elimination. The Commodores eventually won the Regional and fell short to Florida State in a Super Regional.
Goodenow graduated that spring with a degree in sociology but still had one year of eligibility left as he redshirted his freshman season in 2007. He thought he might have a better chance elsewhere — academically.
“Vanderbilt was just expensive, too,” he said. “I didn’t know if I would be able to get in Vanderbilt grad school as it is. There were a couple reasons for it that made Lipscomb the right choice at that time.”
Goodenow has completed his first year of graduate school at Lipscomb as he hopes to complete his master’s degree in conflict management. But he is willing to put that career on hold for an opportunity in professional baseball.
He didn’t have the best year on the mound, starting as Lipscomb’s ace and then falling back into the bullpen by season’s end. In 16 appearances, and seven starts, he was 2-6 with a 6.59 ERA as opponents hit .314 against him.
But he took off at the plate. Not receiving many opportunities to hit while at Vanderbilt, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Goodenow pelted Atlantic Sun Conference pitching. As the designated hitter, he led the Bisons with a .371 batting average in addition to five home runs, 11 doubles and 33 RBIs.
Prior to this season, Goodenow felt his best way to break into the pros was through pitching. After the season ended, however, Goodenow thought his bat would catch the eye of scouts. Unfortunately he was not taken in the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month.
“I should have been [drafted] but I wasn’t,” Goodenow said. “I don’t know. I guess stuff happens or whatever. You see people getting drafted that are hitting .240 ... but I don’t know how some people think. I’m already past that part of my life. If I do get a chance [to play professionally] I’ll take it. If not, there is not much else I can do about it, you know?’”
Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand, on the other hand, believes Goodenow’s best shot at the next level is through pitching.
By starting Goodenow early and often this season, Forehand said his opportunities for “specialty relief” were slim. That could have been a red flag for many MLB teams, which might have also had a hard time envisioning Goodenow as a position player.
“I still think he can be successful on the mound, especially in a relief role versus left-handed pitchers. He is pretty effective against righties too,” Forehand said. “He hasn’t played a full-time position in a while. Could he play first base? Probably so. But there are so many other guys out there who may have a little more experience even though he did swing the bat pretty good. I think he can play first base at the professional level. ... I just think once he catches his breath from a long season that we asked him to do a lot on the mound and a lot with the bat, I really think he can get back to being a pretty solid relief guy.”
Both Forehand and Goodenow have been in contact with scouts, with the hopes there is still a chance the 23-year-old can sign a free-agent contract. Goodenow plans to attend a couple tryouts soon and hopes to hear some good news within the next month.
“I definitely want the chance to just to show that I can play,” Goodenow said. “If the opportunity comes, I’ll jump on it. Then again, you can’t just totally get your hopes up. You always got to keep your options open in every aspect of your life.”
Goodenow is currently spending his summer coaching a travelling youth baseball team with former Overton and Middle Tennessee State product Zach Hudson. If he doesn’t sign with a team, he will most likely come back for a second year at Lipscomb. He didn’t count out using his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt, either.
Regardless of what happens, Goodenow said he can’t dwell in the past.
“If I would have performed better at the start of this year that would have helped my draft stock, maybe just pitching better, in general,” he said. “Just looking back, I’m still glad I made a decision because Lipscomb is a great place. We didn’t have the year we all expected. But it was still a fun year and a different experience for me, going from pitching 20, 30 innings a year to starting eight or nine games and being one of the main relievers and being in the 3 or 4 hole [in the lineup] all year. It is kind of a different go of it. It was still enjoyable.”