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Boulders Bats Come Alive in Four Game Series With Sussex County



Rockland Boulders centerfielder Jared McDonald said after Thursday’s game the team took it personally getting shutout in New Jersey last weekend and almost no-hit on Sunday.

“The off day was huge for us but just getting guys recharged and hitting the reset button,” said McDonald.

Rockland came out swinging in the four-game series against Sussex County at Palisades Credit Union Park racking up 31 runs while belting out nine home runs. The Boulders have won seven straight at home and matched their best start in five years.

The Boulders and Miners played a doubleheader on Tuesday due to a suspended game that occurred back on May 21. Sussex County jumped out to an early 3-1 advantage but Rockland’s bat erupted starting with Marcus Nidiffer crushing his 4th homer of the season into the right center field bleachers in the 2nd.

In the third inning, Riley Palmer got into the long ball act smoking his first of the season on to the right field concourse. A two-run bloop single from Jared Schlehuber gave the Boulders their first lead. After Miners first baseman Chris Jacobs dropped a foul ball in the fourth, McDonald seized upon the second chance opportunity walloping his 5th dinger, a two-run shot just inside of the right field foul pole. Mike Schwartz capped the scoring in the inning lacing an RBI double down the right field line.

“The guys are putting their work in and all the stats I care about are in the win/loss column,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “The last ten games we are 7-3 and hitting .217 and have played 25 games. This offense is streaky but we are going to hit. All of our runs came in errors and capitalizing on mistakes is what we talk about all the time.”

A two-run single by Miners catcher Elvin Soto in the 6th trimmed the lead to 7-5. McDonald tacked on an insurance run in in the sixth lifting a fly ball that landed down the left field line in left scoring Riley Palmer.

Sussex County threatened in the 7th loading up bases against Rockland starter Hector Nelo. However, Nelo settled down fanning Dominque Taylor to end the contest.

In game two, Nidiffer picked up where he left on in the first game clubbing his 5th round tripper of the season, a monstrous three-run blast into the right center bleachers in the bottom of the first. McDonald added his fourth run driven of the doubleheader in the second.

The Miners reduced the deficit to 5-2 in the 5th on a two-run single from Jacobs. Rockland starter Bo Budkevics(4-1) turned in a solid start hurling six innings yielding two runs on six hits while whiffing six and walking one earning his Can-Am league leading fourth win of the season. Daniel Carela pitched a scoreless 7th to register the save.

“I haven’t been there awhile and little rough stretch on the DL and good to contribute to the team,” said Nidiffer “We had some good guys on the mound that makes the offense more comfortable and got some good pitches to hit. Jared is the smartest hitter I have seen in a long time and takes advantage of the Short Porch and doesn’t miss. A professional hitter and glad he’s on our side for sure.”

“Bo was really good and best start he has had at home in a long time and maybe going back two years,” said Jamie Keefe. “His biggest hump was getting through the first two innings and gave up a couple late but helped us stay out of the bullpen. When Marcus heats up, it can be fun to watch and a guy we are to going to ride when he’s hot.”

In game three of the series, Rockland starter David Fischer was in the zone from the start retiring the first six batters he faced. Mike Fransoso provided some early run support drilling a two-run single into right field in the second. Facing a 0-2 count in the fourth, Brenden Webb destroyed the next offering from Miners reliever Nick Gonzalez on to the walkway in deep right field for a 3-run home run, Webb’s first long ball of the season and in Boulders uniform.

“We had a couple of runners on and just wanted to drive the guy in and their guy threw two sliders and came back with a third and was able to get the barrel on it and went out and we got three runs,” said Webb.

Fischer continued to cruise along totaling six strikeouts through five innings. Sussex County did not get their first hit of the game until the sixth. The Miners were able to put runners on third base in the sixth and seven innings but Fischer managed to work out of the jams. Back-to-back RBI singles from Nidiffer and Jared Schlehuber extended the lead to 8-0 in the eighth.

“I made an adjustment in the bullpen three or four games ago and didn’t have results in the first game but knew I was on to something,” said Fischer. “I get this mindset that when runners are on base especially second and third with less than two outs I flip the switch into reliever mode and recorded a couple of strikeouts. When you get some runs early in the game it helps you settle in and goes a long way to be comfortable on the mound.”

Donnie Joseph posted a scoreless ninth to close out the win. Fischer earned his second win of the season tossing eight shutout innings allowing just three hits while striking out nine upping his season totals to 33 and walking two.

Rockland erupted early and often in the final game of series scoring eight times in the first three innings off Sussex County starter Ray Hanson. Brenden Webb clubbed his second homer in last two games in the second inning making it 3-0. The Boulders home run derby continued in the third with Mike Fransoso launching his first of the season while McDonald socked a two-run deep over the right field wall extending the margin to 8-0.

“It’s a matter of guys putting their best swing on the ball and not trying to do too much in a situation and take advantage of mistakes,” said McDonald. “We definitely love playing at home, stadium energy and completely different than anything else.”

Through four innings Markus Solbach was spot on with a shutout. Dominque Taylor put a damper on it in the 5th bashing a solo shot into the left field bleachers. Solbach recovered fanning six hitters into the seventh. The Miners broke through in the seventh scoring three times slicing the deficit to 8-4.

“I pitched out there as if no one was on base, stayed aggressive and struck them out with fastball,” said Solbach. “We’re crushing ball right now and always good to score runs coming out of the gate.”

Back came the Boulders in the bottom half of the frame, newcomer Pat McKenna ripped an RBI single to center scoring Mike Fransoso. McDonald punctuated the night cranking his 8th homer run of the season and second of the night into same exact spot where his first homer in the third boosting the lead to 10-4.

“We really needed that and offensively we’re starting to swing it and see the ball,” said Keefe. “It’s a different feeling in the clubhouse and really good to get some confidence going in these bats. All led by Solbach going out there and putting up zeros.”

The Boulders have won nine out of their last 11 games and are 12-3 at Palisades Credit Union Park. Rockland is tied with the New Jersey Jackals for first place in the Can-Am League standings as both teams’ have identical 18-9 records. Next up is a three-game set at home against the Shikoku League Island All-Stars.

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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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