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Boulders Battling Through Adversity, Take Two of Three From Ottawa



Having lost two of three at Sussex County and losing centerfielder Jared McDonald to a season-ending injury, the Rockland Boulders were looking to bounce back in a three-game set against the Ottawa Champions at Palisades Credit Union Park.

“We’re not hitting the panic button right now and have to get healthy right now,” Manager Jamie Keefe said. “The past three weeks our team is completely different having made 27 transactions this year and last year I think we made five the entire year. We have gotten better but we lost three of our great arms and we had to make due and guys have stepped up.”

In game one of the series, the Champions jumped out of the gate early tagging Boulders starter Richard Salazar(5-4) for six runs in the third inning. Derrick Pyles started it off with an RBI single followed by a line drive by Kenny Bryant that ricocheted off shortstop Junior Arrojo into shallow left field allowing two runs to score on the play. Alexander Malleta provided the big blow in the frame cracking a three-run no doubter into the right-center field bleachers.

Rockland got back in the game in the fourth on a Jared Schlehuber line drive to left field that Matt Helms dropped enabling Mike Fransoso to score from second. In the fifth, the Boulders loaded up the bases and former Rockland pitcher Jarrett Martin plunked Mike Fransoso forcing in a run. Marcus Nidiffer added a sac fly bringing in Pat McKenna making it 6-3. That is as close Rockland managed to get as Champions reliever Luis Munoz struck out Mike Montvile and got Devin Harris to fly out to center.

“More broken bats than I ever saw tonight and that’s baseball for you,” said Keefe. “We have done that a few times to other teams’ this year. Baseball will do that to you and tonight was a kick to a face. A tough one and very emotional day in here not knowing what’s going on with your guys.”

Making his first start for Rockland in game two of the series, Joe Ravert ended the three-game losing skid fired a gem tossing six shutout innings yielding five hits, striking out give and walking three to earn his first professional victory.

“It was great and we were on a little bit of a losing streak and great to get of that in convincing fashion,” said Joe Ravert. “I got a couple of strikeouts and the defense was really working for me. Getting that early run support helps and able to pound the zone. Valle does a great job for three innings and keeps zeroes on the board and get other guys in the bullpen rest.”

Elvin Soto and Devin Harris paced the offense each driving in four runs apiece with Soto connecting on his first home run in a Boulders uniform in the fifth inning. In the final three frames, Edgar Valle shut the door on Ottawa surrendering just two hits.

“It was great and I have been with working with Salazar quite a bit and helping me out with my hand placement,” Elvin Soto said. “Chris Torres has been helping me out in the cage and to see the results with I have been working with past couple of weeks and flourish. We don’t look at it as the bottom of the lineup but guys passing the torch and it’s been working for us one through nine.”

“Awesome performance for Joe and Elvin had a big day contributing,” said Keefe “Elvin has been working at it very day, happy to see him break out, get some production and believe in himself. Best all-around day for the Boulders in a while and sometimes you can control your own destiny and 11-0 in front of a huge crowd.”

Devin Harris picked up where he left off the night before in the rubber match of the series belting a RBI double in the second inning. With runners at 1st & 2nd and two outs, Marcus Nidiffer hammered a single into center as Pat McKenna scored his second run of the game.

In the fourth, a RBI fielder’s choice by Ottawa centerfielder Sebastian Bouch trimmed the Rockland lead down to one. The Champions capitalized in the fifth inning with runners on second and third and two outs as Matt Helms skies a pop out along the third base line but Mike Fransoso dropped the ball allowing two runs to score on the play putting Ottawa ahead.

Fransoso atoned for his error in the bottom half of the inning lacing a single back up the middle as McKenna tallied his third run tying the game up at 3-3.

Fresh off his 11 strikeout performance against Sussex County, starting pitcher David Fischer went seven innings getting tagged for three runs on five hits while fanning five and walking one but earned the no-decision.

The Boulders had a scoring opportunity in the seventh loading up the bases but Champions reliever got Jared Schlehuber to pop out to second and struck out Mike Montville.

It all came down to the ninth inning where Junior Arrojo led off with a walk. Arrojo moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Mike Fransoso. Ottawa reliever Miles Moeller walked Mike Montville loading up the bases with two outs. After falling behind in the count, Devin Harris delivered in the clutch again drawing a walk for the walk-off 4-3 win. Harris ended up going 3 for 4 with two doubles. The last two games of the series Harris tore the cover off the ball going 6 for 7 with 6 RBI’s, 6 hits and 4 doubles. Pat Butler notched his second victory of the season in relief.

“My hats off to the guys because they don’t give in anytime and reason we have been able to scratch out this many wins,” Keefe said. “They especially didn’t give in at home and on the road keep digging and digging. Most important thing for Devin he is having fun again and sometimes in this game you let the game of baseball get to you and think too much and can’t control what happens in games. You go out there and take some good swings. He is seeing it and putting it in play. Last couple of outing Pat has looked really good and his movements are really there.”

After a day off on Monday, the Boulders and Sussex County Miners play a two-game series with the first game being played at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York on Tuesday before returning to Palisades Credit Union Park on Wednesday morning. Rockland’s record stands at 37-24 and one game behind New Jersey for first place in the Can-Am League.

“Now until the All-Star break we got two with Sussex and four important ones with New Jersey,” said Keefe. “We want to win the series but if we go 2-2 no one is going to complain. We have to go over there and battle but we’re not there and have to take it one day at a time right now and an old cliché but we have to.”

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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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