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Boulders Clinch Can-Am League Playoff Spot For Second Straight Season

For the second consecutive season in a row the Rockland Boulders will be playing in the Can-Am League playoffs and get the opportunity to defend their 2014 championship title which was their first in team history. Rockland(55-28) won its 32nd home game and is one game from matching its franchise record of 56 wins which occurred last year.

Trailing the Garden State Grays 5-4 in the ninth inning on Sunday at Provident Bank Park, Junior Arrojo led off the inning getting hit by a pitch which was the 32nd time Arrojo had been plunked which is a Can-Am League record. Stephen Cardullo drove in his 3rd run of the game belting a double into the left center gap and past the outstretched glove of Garden State centerfielder Darian Sandford as Arrojo motored around the bases tying the game up at 5-5.

“At the end of the day you leave it all out there,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “You can’t make it anymore fun than it is. You picture exactly how it’s going to happen but Junior gets hit, go figure which gives us a shot and gets that one guy on base. I couldn’t believe Cardullo’s drive kept going and going. Stephen did the right thing remaining at 2nd base and staying in scoring position.”

Joe Maloney stepped up to the plate and with one swing of the bat crushed a 2-run walk off home run deep into the left center bleachers giving the Boulders a dramatic 7-5 come-from-behind victory and setting off a jubilant celebration at home plate. Maloney’s 12th long ball of the season and 73rd RBI that places him 2nd in the Can-Am League behind teammate Marcus Nidiffer.

“It was huge as we are riding this wave of wins,” said Joe Maloney. “Yesterday we had a tough loss but we knew coming back today all we had to do was win and clinch a playoff spot. Hitting behind Jared McDonald who is hitting .330, Junior Arrojo leads the league in hit by pitched and Stephen Cardullo who has been driving in runs all year long plus stealing bases makes it easier on me and relaxed at the plate.”

The Grays wasted no time getting on the scoreboard taking a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning on a RBI ground out from Yefry Castillo. Garden State would plate another run in the 2nd and two more in the 4th on a two-run triple from Andrew Dundon increasing the margin to 4-0. However, Rockland chipped away at the lead as Cardullo laced a two-run double in the 5th. Marcus Nidiffer walloped his Can-Am League leading 21st homer of the season, a 2-run 420 foot rocket into the left center bleachers tying the game up at 4-4 in the 6th.

“What a great team win especially playing in a tough league with good teams,” said Stephen Cardullo. “Junior starts off the inning getting on base, I get a hit and Joe took it home for us where he has been clutch for us all season long for us. We have a team full of competitors that dig deep and fight to the very end.”

Castillo put the Grays back in the lead 5-4 in the 8th clubbing a mammoth blast off Austin Kirk on to the left center field concourse. Garden State had a golden opportunity to widen the margin with the bases loaded but Chad Robinson did a nice job wiggling out of the jam striking out Jake McGuiggan and Derek Smith to end the inning. Robinson(5-1) earned the win in relief going 1 2/3 innings, pitching a shutout on hits and runs while fanning three and walking two. With a leadoff walk in the 1st, Jared McDonald reached base for the 47th consecutive game in a row that places him 3 games away from tying a Can-Am League record.

On Saturday the Boulders had an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth but starting pitcher Fray Martinez had difficult finding the strike zone in the first inning walking the first two Grays hitters. Yefry Castillo lined a drive to right field with Rockland right fielder Stefen Henderson misplaying the ball allowing two runs to score.  Jared McDonald led off the bottom 1st golfing his 7th home run of the season into the right center stands tying the game up at 1-1. Junior Arrojo gave the Boulders a 3-2 in the 2nd bouncing a 2-run RBI single back up the middle.

“Fray struggled through his strikes and didn’t have command of the zone,” said Keefe. “At the end of the day they took advantage our mistakes where we didn’t take advantage of theirs. You have to throw strikes to win ball games.”

Martinez’s control issue continued to plague him in the 3rd inning uncorking a wild pitch allowing Shawn Payne to score from 3rd tying the game up at 3-3. Carl Thurber followed ripping a shot to left field allowing one run to score but Stephen Cardullo misplayed the ball as another run scored with the Grays retaking the lead 5-3. Thurber was not done ripping a 2-out RBI double in the 5th extending Garden State’s lead to 6-3.

The Boulders managed to close the gap to 6-4 in the 6th without even getting a hit. Stefen Henderson led off with a walk and advanced all the way to 3rd on an errant pick off throw by Nate Roe with the ball rolling down the first base line. On the throw from Thurber in right field the ball skipped by 3rd base enabling Henderson to score.

Garden State picked up a key insurance run in the ninth on a RBI fielder’s choice from Vincent Guglietti. Rockland reduced the lead down to 7-5 on a RBI single by Marcus Nidiffer and had the tying run at the plate in Charlie Law but Roe got him to pop out ending the game. Roe, a former Rockland Boulders pitcher notched the victory going five innings giving up 2 runs which were unearned, striking out one and walking three. Fray Martinez(3-1) shouldered the loss allowing six runs with four of them earned on seven hits and walking five.

In the series opener, Joe Maloney went 3 for 5 and drove in 2 RBI’s including the go-ahead run in the ripping an RBI double down the left field line in the 1st. Stephen Cardullo also drove in two runs including the game tying hit in the 1st on a RBI single scoring Junior Arrojo.

“Tonight was Marcus Jensen’s best performance,” said Keefe. “When you’re a groundball guy who works fats and throws strikes that is outstanding. We’re having good at bats and putting the ball in play.”

After allowing a two-out solo blast by Grays left fielder Shawn Payne in the 1st inning, Marcus Jensen(6-1) settled down tossing 6 solid innings allowing one run while scattering  five hits while striking out six and walking three.

“I knew it was a momentum thing after giving up the home run as I didn’t change my approach,” said Marcus Jensen. “ I had to refocus and win it for these guys because they play so well behind me and show up every day. Our defense is always playing one step ahead and thinking.”

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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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