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Boulders Bounce Back with Sweep of Shikoku Island

Boulders swept Shikoku Island All-Stars at Provident Bank Park

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Coming off a rough 2-5 Canadian road trip, the Rockland Boulders bounced back in convincing fashion sweeping a four-game set of the Shikoku Island All-Stars at Provident Bank Park. With the Quebec Capitales losing on Saturday night, Rockland leap frogged into first place in the Can-Am League standings by a half-game and overall record of 17-10.

Having endured a 10 plus hour bus trip back from Ottawa and arriving 45 minutes before first pitch in game 1 of the series had no such adverse on the Boulders as they scored six times in the third inning charging to 9-1 lead. Alex Gouin filling in as a spot starter pitched brilliantly yielding just one on two hits while striking out five. The relief combination of Nathaniel Roe, Marcus Jensen and Fray Martinez allowed two runs on one hit while fanning seven.

“It’s great to be back home and playing on our field,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Shikoku Island scores first but we come back with three runs and then have a big inning. Athletic ability takes over the point of exhaustion.”

In game 2 of the series the Boulders relied on the long ball to set the tone as Giuseppe Papaccio and Jared McDonald went back to back in the 3rd inning. Shikoku Island cut the lead to 2-1 in the top 4th on an RBI single from Sho Haraguchi. Rockland answered in the bottom half of inning scoring three times to increase the lead to 5-1. The floodgates opened up in the 7th as the Boulders scored four more times to put the game out of reach at 9-2.

“It’s nice to see what Mike Dennhardt can do because we know he has a great arm and tonight attacked hitters with his fastball and put people away which he had not done,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “I got the goose bumps seeing Giuseppe turn on that pitch and all the guys come out of the dugout on our first run because everything he has been hitting has been caught.”

Mike Dennhardt earned his first victory of the season, going seven hits while surrendering one run on eight hits. Chad Robinson and Luis Sanz were impresive in relief allowing no runs on two hits.

“It felt good to get the first win and anytime when your team scores 10 runs and makes plays behind you always helps,” said Mike Dennhardt. “The guys have my back scoring runs which makes me relax and makes me focus on just throwing strikes.”

Joe Maloney leading the Can-Am League in hitting and RBI’s, gave the Boulders an early 1-0 advantage in game 3 of the series. Maloney added an RBI single in the 3rd inning. Marcus Nidiffer electrified the home crowd crushing a 3-run homer into the left field bleachers boosting the lead to 5-0. Nidiffer leads the league in home runs with eight.

“We are seeing the ball really well and good at bats,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Richard Salazar is locked in right now and awesome throwing anywhere from 80 to 90 miles per hour on his pitches. When we’re going well, we can step on the gas pedal”

Richard Salazar continued to dazzle on the mound going seven strong innings giving up two runs on two hits while striking out eight. Salazar is tied for most wins in the Can-Am League with 5 and second in strikeouts with 35. In the top of the 7th, Salazar did a nice job wriggling out of a bases-loaded situation striking out the last three hitters to keep the All-Stars from having a big inning. The relief combination of Shawn Gilblair and Nathaniel Roe were stellar allowing no runs and one hit.

“Marcus did an awesome job behind the plate tonight calling the signs,” said Richard Salazar. “Getting the run support is key because it allows me to be in a rhythm to get the three outs as quickly as possible.”

In the series finale the Boulders plated the first run of the game in the 3rd on an RBI single from Marcus Nidiffer that scored Stephen Cardullo who beat the throw at home plate. Shikoku Island tied the game at 1-1 in the 4th on an RBI double by Yoshihiro Kobayashi. The Boulders squandered several scoring opportunities leaving a total of 11 left on base. Rockland third baseman Guiseppe Paccio made several sparkling defensive plays in the game. Steve Nyisztor drew a two out walk in the bottom of the 9th, moved over to second base on a passed ball and Joe Maloney came through in the clutch driving single into left center field gap for the walk off win.

“Stephen pitched really well and escaped the jams with base runners on, ” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “I did not think they were going to pitch to Joe and the ball was left over the plate that Joe took care of. We knew coming in it would be a tough series but we took care of business at home.”

Despite earning a no-decision, Stephen Harrold tossed seven crisp innings giving up one run on eight hits while striking out three. Chad Robinson earned his second win of season in relief.

“It was a good team win as we battled all day long,” said Joe Maloney. “Stephen Harrold went out there and gave a great outing. Our relievers came had a couple of good innings and we found a way to win” “I love hitting here at home and seeing the ball really well”

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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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