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Boulders Bid for Second Can-Am League Title Foiled by Ottawa

After a dramatic five game series win in the Can-Am League Semifinals against the Quebec Capitales, there was no rest for the Rockland Boulders having to bus up to Canada on the same day of Game 1 of the Championship Series against the Ottawa Champions.

Despite little rest and sleep, Rockland came out swinging as Marcus Nidiffer blasted a two-run moonshot over the left field fence in the first inning. Ottawa would tie the game in the third on two-run single from Kenny Bryant and take the lead in the fifth on a run-producing hit by Sebastien Boucher. Nidiffer went yard for a second time belting a solo shot in the sixth tying the contest at 3-3.

The Champions went back in front in the seventh as Boucher drilled a RBI single to center followed by a Bryant RBI double off Quinnton Mack’s glove in deep centerfield.

Rockland responded in the eighth reeling off three consecutive singles starting with Nidiffer driving in his fourth run of the game. With runners on second and third, Jared Schlehuber tied the game up at 5-5 belting a single to right center. Devin Harris smashed a single to right scoring Nidiffer for the go-ahead run. Matt Kostalos worked out of a base loaded situation with two outs in the ninth getting Alexander Malleta to ground out to second. Kostalos earned the win in relief and Hector Nelo registered the save.

Game 2 was no different as both team’s exchanged early runs. Boulders starter Richard Salazar and Ottawa starter Daniel Cordero were locked in a pitchers’ duel. Salazar worked out of a bases loaded situation with two outs in the fourth striking out Adron Chambers while Cordero was racking up the strikeouts with eight.

In the ninth, Elvin Soto came through in the clutch once again drilling a two out single in the ninth making it 4-2. However, Hector Nelo could not preserve the win yielding a two-run tying single to Donal Duarte.

In the 10th, Mike Montville who had already a game winning hit with a walk-off home run against Quebec in game three delivered again with the bases loaded and one out lifting a sacrifice fly ball to right scoring Junior Arrojo. The Champions refused to go away quietly in the bottom half of the frame. After Daniel Biick drew a two-out walk, Chambersd belted a drive to the right field wall. Montville collected the ball and threw to Pat McKenna who in turn threw a strike to Nidiffer at home plate nabbing Bick for the final out of the game.

“Whether it’s pitching, hitting, defense or base running these guys just don’t give in,” Manager Jamie Keefe said. “We were just luck to have one more run that they did. Montville knew he had to get into McKenna and threw it 90 miles an hour and from 200 feet that was a strike. A week ago we had to win one and tonight one more. We picked home field advantage for one reason and that is to hit last and give ourselves an opportunity.”

“I just wanted to get the ball up in the air and worst thing I could do was either hit into a double play or strikeout,” said Mike Montville. “I just got to the play as quick as I could and get the ball into Pat’s hands as fats as I could and give him more credit on that throw. When you can come from behind and win games in the playoffs it’s really good for the guys and everyone trusts each other and have been in situations like that.”

Looking to clinch their second Can-Am League Championship in the past three years, Rockland fell behind quickly as Albert Cartwright crushed a two-run home run in the first inning off starter Jason Byers. From that point on Byers settled down retiring nine in a row at one stretch.

In the fifth, Junior Arrojo sent Palisades Credit Union Park into a frenzy blasting a grand slam on to the concourse in left field. The Boulders were not finished adding runs as Montville hammered a bases loaded triple off Chambers glove on the warning track in the right field.

Ottawa answered back in the sixth courtesy of the long ball as Cartwright bashes his second homer of the game just over the yellow line in right center. Kenny Bryant smashed a two-run blast deep on to the concourse in right field. The Champions continued to apply the pressure in the seventh as Daniel Grauer’s two-run bloop single tied the game up. Alexander Malleta sac fly put Ottawa back on top. Rockland responded in the eighth as Mike Fransoso knotted the game up with a sacrifice fly to center.

The game went to extras with Ottawa loading up the bases with none out. Cartwright plated his fourth RBI of the night with a RBI single just past McKenna into right. Bryant followed smoking a single off McKenna’s glove bringing in Bick. Matt Kostalos uncorked a wild pitch as Chambers into score. Donal Duarte capped off the scoring with a sac fly.

As a mass exodus of fans were departing the ballpark in the bottom half of the 11th, the Boulders were not ready to pack up. With runners at second and third and one out, Devin Harris ripped a double down the right field line making it 12-10. Leandro Castro stepped up and clobbered a triple to left center scoring Junior Arrojo. Montville was the man of the hour again drilling a single to left as Castro would come up into score tying the game at 12-12.

In the 12th, Daniel Grauer led off socking a solo shot off Hector Nelo on to the concourse in left. Rockland had a golden opportunity loading up the bases with one out but Champions reliever Andrew Coooper slammed the door  striking out Harris and inducing Castro into popping out to Cartwright at second.

“What are you going to do, they are playing for their lives and we have been there,” said Jamie Keefe. “Hats off to Ottawa tonight and we had our opportunities. At the end of the day they get to play one more and we got to keep going and keep our foot on the pedal.”

Game four followed a similar pattern as Ottawa jumped out to an early advantage in the first on a Kenny Bryant two-run single. Held without a home run in the postseason, Jared Schlehuber walloped a two-run missile on to the concourse in left field.

In the fourth, the Champions lpacked  the bases and Daniel Grauer hit a chopper to Mike Fransoso who was unable to field the ball cleanly as the go-ahead run came across. Adron Chambers followed cranking a two-run triple off the right center wall. Cartwright continued to punish Boulders pitching smashing a two-run single to center giving him 9 runs batted in last two games.

Ottawa tacked on four more runs in the sixth putting the game away. Fresh off a strong game three win in the first round over Quebec and throwing 134 pitches, Bo Budkevics was tagged for seven runs on 10 hits in five innings of work on the mound. Ottawa starter Steve Borkowski tossed eight innings striking out 13 hitters.

“Borkowski threw the ball well enough to keep us at bay and they scored 13 and it is what it is,” Keefe said. “Everybody is going to be on deck tomorrow and ready to go. We backed ourselves into a corner and been in these do or die games all year and especially with this group.”

For a second consecutive game, Kenny Bryant put Ottawa ahead and on the board with a two-run single. Champions starter Austin Chrismon stymied the Boulders for the first couple of innings.

In the fourth, Marcus Nidiffer led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. Devin Harris belted a double down the left field line scoring Nidiffer trimming the margin.

Chrismon and Rockland starter David Fischer battled for the next couple of innings. In the eighth, Bryant dropped the hammer depositing a monstrous solo shot on to the concourse in right field. The Boulders had one last gasp as Nidiffer laced a single with one out. Jared Schlehuber came up to the plate and nearly tied the game up with one single slugging a drive that just went left of the foul pole in left field.

Chrismon ending up fanning Schlehuber but Devin Harris kept the game going with a single. However, Chrismon reared back and got Mike Montvtille to pop out to Duarte at third completing Ottawa’s comeback and clinching the Can-Am League Title.

“You tell me at the end of the day they score three runs and going to win, I’ll take that bet all day,” said Keefe. “Hats off to the Ottawa Champions for a great series. It’s a tough one to swallow and we have been running on empty for a week now and down to our last bat so many times and you can go the well so many times.”

“The one thing that I can do when I go home and realize at the end of the day is we did everything and our guys stepped up when we had to and got beat by two runs and difference in season. Mark my words, this has been the most trying year of my career. At the end of the day I would go to war with these 23 any day. Hats off to the staff and ownership group for letting me do what I had to get here.”

“We had to make moves sometimes within 12 hours and had to be done getting guys on flights that might have cost us a little bit here and there. Having an ownership group here and go out every day and letting your guys play and try to stay out of their way is how we have always run it and for four years here. My staff with Salazar, Chris Torres, Kevin Tuve and Alex Herceg. We got ourselves to the top of the mountain and on the other side two times and third time we didn’t complete it.”

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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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