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Boulders drop 2 out of 3 at New Jersey

Heading into a three-game series against the New Jersey Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair, New Jersey, the Rockland Boulders were feeling more confident riding a four-game winning streak. However, all the good vibes quickly dissipated in the first two games as Rockland was outscored 16 to 5 coupled with mounting injuries to the pitching staff. The lone bright spot for the Boulders were the home run category as Marcus Nidiffer knocked two out of the park and Cody Regis hit his team leading 11thhome run.

“We swung the bats really well but just didn’t have much to show for and couldn’t get anything to fall,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Four infield hit and sometimes the ball doesn’t your way. We have to get healthy and are banged up at this point. None out of our starters except (Kagen) Hopkins that have really started before and a difficult situation to be in when you are 30 games into the season. Kind of have to weather the storm and get this righted when we are 50 games into the season and ready to take off then.”

In the series finale, Rockland starter Garrett Johnson and Jackals starter Mariel Checo engaged in a pitcher’s duel for the first four innings. Faced with runners in scoring position in the second and fourth, Johnson managed to weave his way of the jams. Checo did not disappoint no-hitting the Boulders until Kevin Krause changed all of that with one swing of the bat leading off the fifth, socking his fifth homer of the season over the left field fence.

Mikael Mogues stepped up to the plate next and promptly walloped a towering shot over the right field wall, Mogues eighth of the year. With runners on the corner and two outs, Cody Regis blasted a three-run screamer over the right center wall and increased his Can-Am League RBI total to 34.

“Somebody had to break the ice and we really started to hit the ball,” Keefe said. “The last five innings we had 13 nights. We run the bases really well, not fast but going to hit a ton of doubles and home runs and drive guys in.”

New Jersey refused to wave the white towel on this night storming back in the bottom half of the frame tallying three runs off Johnson including a two-run homer off the bat of Dean Green. Johnson managed to keep his poise retiring the side in the order and going on to set down seven in row with four strikeouts.

“Spearheaded by Garrett’s start and to 7 innings on 95 pitches is just awesome,” said Keefe. “We finally got him to stretch it out. He throws seven pitches and gives up three runs. I went out there and told him we have a two-run cushion and in charge. We came back and scored a couple and poured it on.”

In the seventh inning with two outs, Rockland went back to its bread and butter that is the lone ball, Conor Bierfeldt getting the party started smashing his fifth of the season over the left field wall. Picking up where he left off the night before, Marcus Nidiffer launched his third home run in the last two nights and 9thof the season, a 2-run moonshot that sailed deep over the left field wall. So far this season the Boulders have hit 55 home runs.

The floodgates opened up in the eighth as the Boulders swatted four doubles leading to four additional runs. With Johnson(2-0) departing the game after innings yielding three runs on eight hits, fanning seven and walking two, the reliefs corps of Nick Kennedy and Kyle Hansen slammed the door with two shutout innings while allowing one hit. Hansen closed the game out in fashion striking out the last two batters.

“These guys need innings, they got to pitch and just can’t sit because they are not going to get any better and called upon in the next couple of weeks,” said Keefe. “Nice feeling that ballpark with one out of three, didn’t win the series but we go back home.”

Rockland (18-15) takes on the Salina Stockade in a three-game set at Palisades Credit Union Park. Formerly with the American Association, Salina has a record of 3-8 in the Can-Am League.

“Number one we have to look at game one, not look past it and this is huge,” Keefe said. “If we can take four out of our last six, we will be in good shape heading into the series at Sussex County.”

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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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