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Boulders back on winning track after taking three out of four at Quebec

Off to a 1-4 start and heading up to Canada for a seven-game road trip, the Rockland Boulders were facing an uphill climb but Manager Kevin Baez message to his team was straightforward.

“We can’t do anything about what happened before so let’s use this road trip as a bonding experience and get back to fundamental baseball and playing the game. It’s early in the season and I don’t want to see me panicking and I’m trying to keep this game as simple as possible and let the guys go out and have some fun and show their ability to play this game. They are all good players and it’s about coming out every day with a good attitude and program and go out there and play the game like they how.”

That message definitely resonated with the team in the series opener against the Quebec Capitales at State Canac as starting pitcher Pasquale Mazzoccoli tossing six innings, permitting just one run on three hits, walking two and striking out seven. Facing his former team, catcher Adam Ehrlich drove in two runs including a solo home run in the second inning. Collin Ferguson drove in the game winning run with a RBI ground out in fourth.

The bullpen quartet consisting of Nick Kennedy, James Mulry, Robbie Gordon and Jake Zokan not only preserved the first win of the season for Mazzoccoli but the 3-1 victory with Zokan notching his second save of the season.

Ehrlich continued to enjoy success his former the team in game two of the series driving in two more runs including an RBI single that extended the lead to 3-1 in the fourth inning. However, Quebec answered back in the fifth tallying three runs to reclaim the advantage.

Once again Ehrlich proved to be valuable tying the game up with an RBI double in the sixth. With runners on the corner and two outs, Collin Ferguson delivered in the clutch belting a single that brought Ryne Birk with the go-ahead run. With Justin Valdespina lasting four innings on the mound, the bullpen was called upon duty and sparkled with Tim Ponto, James Mulry, Nick Kennedy and Robbie Gordon surrendering only one hit in five innings and fanning five hitters. Mulry picked up the win in relief while Gordon registered his first save of the season.

Despite dropping the third game of the series 2-1 to the Capitales, there were bright spots with John Brontsema crushing his first home run of the season. Injured while warming up on the mound last Wednesday at Palisades Credit Union Park, Brett Schneider return to action and displayed no ill effects on an injury hurling five innings, yielding one run on three hits, walking one and whiffing five.

In the series finale on Monday night, the Boulders trailed 3-2 entering the fifth innings when the bat exploded scoring four runs off Quebec starter Arik Sikula. Collin Ferguson tied the game with an RBI single followed by Blake Grant-Parks driving in his second run of the game that would prove to be the game winner with Ferguson crossing home plate. John Brontsema kept the hit parade going with another single that brought not only Grant Heyman in but Grant-Parks on an error by right fielder Kody Ruedisili.

Meanwhile Rockland starting pitcher JD Busfield battled through seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits, serving up a home run but striking out seven hitters. Nick Kennedy and Robbie Gordon came on relief throwing two shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out two as Gordon recorded his second save. Ehrlich went 3 for 5 in the game, ending up 8 for 11 and four RBI in the series. The Boulders offense tallied 15 runs, 30 hits and four home runs.

“The guys are putting in the work, there is no question and sometimes you don’t get the results right away because you are pressing and getting frustrated,” said Baez. “We thought coming into this season our pitching was good, nice to see the guys stepping up and pitching well and bullpen has been outstanding. It’s nice to see the pitching and hitting clicking at the same time. You need your starters with the limited bullpen and 23 man roster to go six or seven innings at a time and give the bullpen some rest and keep fresh for the long haul.”

“Happy for Adam (Ehrlich), sometimes coming back to the place you played before it’s human nature you want to do well against your former team and nice to see him come through and we needed it and expect big things from him and he is playing well.”

“We got some power no question with Heyman, Ferguson, Hinshaw and even Brontsema and Adam as well. We have speed at the top of the lineup with Piatnik and Harris that get on base and guys that can drive them in and formula we have. They cause havoc on the bases and put the ball in play that puts pressure on the defense. It adds another dimension in our lineup that we need.”

The Boulders (4-5) finish up the road trip with a three game series against the Ottawa Champions at RCGT Park starting on Tuesday with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. Currently the Champions are 4-6 and half-game behind Rockland in the Can-Am League standings.

“It’s going to take good pitching, defense and timely hitting, Baez said. Stringing a couple of bats together and putting pressure on them. We need a good game plan and focus.”

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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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