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Back-To-Back Walk Off Victories Propel Boulders to Series Sweep of Salina Stockade

The 2018 Rockland Boulders are developing quite a knack for walk-off victories.

After Justin Brantley delivered a gem in his Boulders debut on Friday night, hurling six shutout innings while scattering three hits against the Salina Stockade and notching his first win in a Rockland uniform, it was David Palladino’s turn on Saturday night. Before the start of the game, former Rockland Boulder and reigning Can-Am League single season home record setter with 35, Joe Maloney, threw out the first pitch.

Making his first start of the season, Palladino produced a masterful performance tossing five shutout innings on 74 pitches, striking out the side twice, fanning 10 batters, surrendering two hits and walking one. However, Palladino would receive a no-decision on this night. Having struck out 13 of the last 24 batters faced, Palladino earned the Can-Am League Pointstreak Player of the Week honors.

Limited to just three hits in the game, the Boulders were able to manufacture all three of their runs scored without a hit. Entering the ninth ahead 2-1, Kyle Hansen (2-0) was called upon to close it out but the Stockade refused to go away quietly tying the game up on a passed ball. In the bottom half of the frame, Rockland loaded up the bases. Facing a 2-2 count, Conor Bierfeldt lofted a fly ball to shallow center field, displaying no fear at all Brandon Martinez took off for home plate and dove in headfirst at home plate safely setting off a jubilant celebration.

“Palladino was dominant, 10 K’s in five innings, a good feeling for him and we needed it,” said manager Jamie Keefe. “He knows how to do it and step in the right direction. He struggled early and ball didn’t bounce his way early in the season and to come out and perform the way he did in his first start was awesome and looking forward to his next start. A great slide and told him (Brandon Martinez) you’re going with no hesitation.”

In the series finale, Salina wasted no time jumping out to a 5-1 advantage after three innings off Boulders starter Kagen Hopkins. There was no panic in the Rockland dugout chipping away steadily at the deficit in the next couple of innings. First baseman Mikael Mogues spearheaded the charge roping three doubles and driving in three runs. Conrad Gregor’s RBI double in the sixth put Rockland ahead 6-5.

Up 7-5 in the ninth, Salina refused the wave the white flag, scoring three times off Andy Lalonde. Despite 12 runners left on base, the Boulders managed to walk 12 times in the contest. In the bottom half of the inning, Stockade David Gates inability to find the strike zone led to Brandon Martinez drawing bases loaded free pass tying the game up. Jason Agresti kept the trend going with another walk as Mike Montville trotted across home plate registering his fourth run of the game. Matt Kostalos (1-1) earned the win in relief.

“This team played hard all week, a real fun series and we had to work hard for everything we got,” Keefe said. “We were lucky to get out of there with all three wins. We know we had a really good shot if we kept it to one knowing what they had left in the bullpen. Matt Kostalos came in and threw the ball really well and we needed him to and keep these guys from pushing another one across.”

“Patience is the certainly a virtue at the plate and their bullpen struggled throwing strikes and we were able to take advantage at that. We had patience at the plate and when we needed to step on the gas and do that as well.”

Sporting a 21-15 record, the Boulders are now three games out of first place in the standings. Next up a critical three-game showdown against Sussex County (24-12) starting Tuesday night at Skylands Stadium in Augusta, New Jersey. This season the teams’ have split the games played. The Miners have swiped 97 bases this season and not far from tying the league record they set in 2017 with 163.

“Our goal is to take every series we can and know we are playing a first-place team,” said Keefe. “Finding a way to win a series with a 22 man roster gets really tough but every team in the league faces the same situation. We’re a little more banged up, happy where we are at but not where we want to be. The M.O. against them is keeping them off the bases and work quick to the plate. If you don’t they eat you alive and beat us this season. We had a team meeting last time to tighten it up, they steal bases and we hit homers.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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