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Boulders Earn Split In Four Game Series Against Sussex County

Having salvaged the final game of a three game series at Trois-Rivieres, the Rockland Boulders returned home to Provident Bank Park looking to clinch their second consecutive Can-Am League pennant. However, Rockland ran into a very determined Sussex County Miners squad who put up a good fight as the Boulders (58-32) settled for a split of the four-game series.

In the series opener, Sussex County went yard twice in the second inning against Rockland starter Fray Martinez. Jon Talley crushed a solo shot onto to the concourse in right field. Sergio Miranda followed depositing a solo blast into the Short Porch area in right field. The Miners added a third run in the inning as Martinez uncorked his second wild pitch allowing Jayson Hernandez to score.

The Boulders got on the scoreboard in the third on a Junior Arrojo RBI fielder’s choice. With runners on the corner and two outs in the fifth inning, Ryan Mathews lined a single down the left field line scoring Kenny Bryant giving Sussex County a 4-1 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Joe Maloney drilled his thirteenth home run of the season and 76th RBI deep into the left field bleachers shaving the margin down to 4-2.

The Miners broke the game wide open in the 7th as Johnny Bladel cracked a drive down the right field line with Joe Maloney giving chase and diving to make the catch came up injured as Bladel sprinted around the bases for a 2-run inside-the-park home run bolstering the lead to 6-2. Fray Martinez absorbed the loss going 6 innings surrendering six runs with five of them earned on 11 hits while striking out three and walking two.

In the bottom half of the 7th, Jared McDonald broke the Can-Am League record for consecutive games reaching safely with his 51st on a line drive single to center.

“It was probably the hardest day to get on base,” said Jared McDonald. “It comes down to me doing the job as a leadoff man and getting on base. I had no idea about the record until the 2nd baseman from the Garden State Grays told me the streak had reached 45 games. The fans have been great in supporting us. Reaching 1st base when the announcement was made and ovation just awesome.”

“Jared has just been unreal and every day he goes out there doing damage in the score box whether it be runs, hits and RBI,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “The crowd gave him a great hand here.”

The series shifted to Skylands Stadium for the next two games. Rockland was down 2-1 in the top of the 7th when Miners pitcher Tony Amezcua encountered control issue throwing two wild pitches with the second one being the most important as Jared McDonald scored the tying run with runners on 2nd and 3rd. Junior Arrojo came up with the highlight reel moment of the contest swiping home on a 1-2 count to Marcus Nidiffer giving the Boulders the lead for good 3-2.

Stephen Cardullo tacked on an insurance run with a RBI ground out in the 9th making it 4-2. Bo Budkevics(4-4) tossed a gem hurling 8 2/3 yielding two runs on six hits while fanning four and walking two.

Game 3 of the series got off to a good start for the Boulders as Stephen Cardullo picked up where he left off the night before driving in the lone run of the game for the Boulders in the first inning. Sussex County tied the game up in the 2nd on a solo home run off the bat of Ryan Mathews.

The Miners went on to take the lead in the inning with runners on corner and 2 outs an error by Alex Gouin enabled Jamal Austin to score the go-ahead run. A single by Kenny Bryant increased the advantage to 3-1. Mathews drove in his 2nd run of the game in the 6th on a RBI triple and scored on a wild pitch by Gouin extending the margin to 5-1.

Miners starting pitcher shut down the Boulders offense after the 1st hurling seven shutout innings. Gouin(7-4) was charged with the loss surrendering five runs which three were earned on seven hits, striking out eight and walking one.

“Alex had his best stuff all season long but Sussex County took care of couple of mistakes plus a couple of poor defensive plays,” said Keefe. “Stephen Cardullo has got the job done the last couple of nights. He’s been huge for us all year.”

In the series finale, the game was tied up at 3-3 in the bottom of the 7th when Jared McDonald led off with a check swing double down the left field line. Junior Arrojo stepped up next and lashed a double down the third base line bringing in McDonald. Steve Nyisztor gave Rockland some breathing room in the 8th smoking a 2-run double to the left field wall. Giuseppe Papaccio added a RBI single pushing the lead to 7-3. Luis Sanz preserved the victory striking out the side in the ninth.

“It’s a huge win as we have playing great all season long,” said Junior Arrojo. “I was feeling down after the error but came up with a runner on 2nd and was able to drive in the run. It’s frustrating we did not get the win for Salazar because in my opinion he is the pitcher of the year. Stephen Cardullo is an animal and we’re not the same team without him. He does it all by hitting for power, average, stealing bases and playing a great left field.”

Entering the top of the 7th the Boulders were ahead comfortably 3-0 as Richard Salazar gave way to Chad Robinson. With one swing of the bat, Ryan Mathews changed everything clobbering a blast well over the left field concourse putting Sussex County on the scoreboard.

An error by Junior Arrojo on a grounder by Brady Wilson set the wheels in motion as Jayson Hernandez hammered a drive to right field where Joe Maloney slipped in the outfield grass as the ball skipped by allowing Wilson to score from 1st. Cory Morales followed ripping a double down the left field line scoring Hernandez tying the game up at 3-3.

For a second straight game, Stephen Cardullo drove in the first run of the game for Rockland lifting a sac fly to center in the 3rd bringing in Giuseppe Papaccio. In the sixth, Charlie clubbed a 2-run double increasing the lead to 3-0. Salazar dominated the first six innings and the Boulders defense shined coming up with a couple of nifty double plays. However, Salazar earned a hard luck no decision scattering four hits while striking out two and walking 2. Chad Robinson(6-1) earned the win in relief.

“Salazar threw the ball real well tonight and gave us an opportunity to win this game,” said Keefe. “The bats came alive late and we ran the bases. Chad fell behind hitters but he came back in the inning and finished strong.”

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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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