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Boulders Eliminated by Trois-Rivières in Five Games

The Rockland Boulders dreams of capturing a 2nd straight Can-Am League Championship were dashed away by the Trois-Rivières Aigles who defeated the Boulders three games to two in the 1st round of the Can-Am League playoffs. Trois-Rivières roared back from a 2-1 deficit taking the last 2 games at Provident Bank Park where Rockland went 36-20 during the regular season.

“We played the hottest team in the league coming into the playoffs” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Munoz was the difference and he plus Steve Brown took care of business” added Keefe. “We didn’t get the hit and square it up as we might have had 4 doubles all series long” “At the end of the day we didn’t accomplish what our goal was” “We had an incredible year with all the accolades”

In Game 5 the Aigles jumped on the scoreboard quickly with a Steve Brown slicing a double down the RF line in the 1st inning scoring Craig Hertler who led off the game with a walk. The Boulders had a scoring chance in the bottom half of the frame with runners on 1st and 2nd 2 outs but Marcus Nidiffer’s drive to dead center was caught by Brown on the edge of the warning track.

Brown added to his RBI total in the 3rd smoking a 2-run home run off Boulders starter Stephen Harrold onto the left field concourse. Trois-Rivières broke the game wide open in the 4th scoring 4 times off Richard Salazar who took over the pitching duties for Stephen Harrold. Nidiffer got Rockland on the board in the bottom half of the inning walloping a 2-run bomb into left field grandstand.

However, the Boulders were stifled by Aigles starter Luis Munzo who was brilliant in game 1 holding Rockland to one run on one hit. Munoz tossed eight innings allowing two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out four. Meanwhile Salazar after a rough 4th inning settled down retiring 11 hitters in a row while striking out seven. Edilson Alvarez pitched a scoreless 9th to clinch the series for Trois-Rivières.

Rockland was 9 outs away from taking the series in Game 4 but Joel Carranza changed everything with one swing of the bat crushing a titanic home run into left center grandstand tying the game up at 1-1. The Aigles would take the lead in the 8th on Daniel Mateo sac fly to deep right scoring Steve Brown who hammered a drive off the top of the left center field wall ending up at third with a triple.

“Alex kept us in the game and we left too many runners on base” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “We don’t take 2 out of 3 at home we don’t deserve to win” Those guys are not going to lay down and want it as bad as we want it”

In the 9th inning the lead would grow as Kyle LaFrez clobbered a solo shot off Shawn Gilblair. The Aigles had another an opportunity to tack onto the lead when Pedro Lopez bashes a single to right with Eric Grabe attempting to score from 2nd but Ryan Stovall came up firing with a strike to home as Joe Maloney applied the tag for the final out of the inning.

The Boulders refused to go away quietly in the bottom half of the frame with Giuseppe Papaccio swatting a single to right field. Jared McDonald stepped up next and deposited a towering drive just inside of the foul pole in the Short Porch area in right knotting the game at 3-3.

Trois-Rivières went to work in the 10th with Brown lacing a single to center with one out followed by Mateo ripping a double down the right field line. Jose Cuevas was intentionally walked to load up the bases. Rockland Manager Jamie Keefe made the call to the bullpen and summoned Luis Sanz. However, Sanz uncorked a wild pitch with Kyle La Frenz at bat allowing Brown to score the go-ahead run. The Boulders had one last shot in the bottom half with Marcus Nidiffer at 2nd and 1 out. Aigles pitcher Phillipe Valiquette managed to get Steve Nyisztor and Stovall to fly out to right sealing the win nodding the series at 2-2.

Game 3 went back and forth as Trois-Rivières seized the lead in the 1st taking a 2-0 lead on RBI singles from Pedro Lopez and Daniel Mateo. The Boulders responded with a flourish in the bottom half of the inning behind Joe Maloney’s 2 run double and Charlie Law ripping an RBI single into right scoring Maloney as Rockland took a 3-2 lead.

“Marcus Jensen stayed composed all night long and ahead of the hitters,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “A team game 1 through 9” added Keefe. “We’re up 2-1 but this is far from over”

The Aigles quickly tied the game in the top 2nd on a run scoring single from Craig Hertler. Once again the Boulders had an answer plating three additional runs in the bottom half of the frame regaining the lead at 6-3. Giuseppe Papaccio belted an RBI double to the left field wall followed by a Junior Arrojo fisting a single into left center scoring Papaccio. Maloney drove in his third run of the game lacing a single to right scoring Arrojo.

Rockland’s lead would not stand for long as the Aigles struck for two runs in the fourth on a Eric Grabe RBI single and Javier Herrera RBI double making it 6-4. The 6th inning featured some remarkable defensive plays by Rockland. On a sac bunt from Grabe down the first base line Daniel Carela hustling off the mound flipped the ball while diving to the ground to Charlie Law at first to nab Grabe. Craig Hertler cranked a deep fly ball down the right field line into the bullpen corner with Ryan Stovall racing to reel in the highlight reel catch while falling back towards the wall.

However, Lopez drove in his 2nd run of the game bouncing a chopper past Papaccio into left field bringing in Carranza tying he game back up at 6-6. Trois-Rivières had an opportunity to take the lead in the top 9th with runners on the corner and two outs but Shawn Gilblair struck out Mateo.

“I was just trying to stay releaxed and keep my composure” said Shawn Gilblair. “We have such a good offense if I could keep us right there we would have a good chance at winning” added Gilblair.

In the bottom of the 9th, Charlie Law led of smoking a single off the glove of Cuevas. Steve Nyisztor was hit by a pitch putting runners at 1st and 2nd. Stovall stepped up and dropped down a sac bunt that was fielded by Aigles relief pitcher Kaohi Downing who attempted to go to 3rd on the play but instead air mailed the ball over 1st allowing Law to score the game winning run.

“A testament to out team as a whole as our offense hit the ball hard all game and defense was fantastic” said Charlie Law. “Ryan Stovall brought us together and we had been slumping of late but he helped us rejuvenate offensively” added Law. “My teammates have been picking me up and putting me in good situations”.

Bo Budkevics was the hero for Rockland in Game 2 registering a franchise-record 12 strikeouts. Budkevics was dominant from the start retiring the first 14 hitters in a row before yielding a 2-out single to Jose Cuevas in the 5th inning.

“One of those big game with a great crowd, juices are flowing and it’s a must win” said Bo Budkevics. “My fastball command allowed me to get me through their lineup and 2nd time around they have not seen my curveball” added Budkevics. “The quick innings helped us as we scored our 3 runs during the 4th, 5th and 6th innings”

The Boulders took a 1-0 lead in the 4th on a sac fly from Marcus Nidiffer scoring Stephen Cardullo. In the 5th Jared McDonald blooped a drive down the left field line that somehow dropped in between three Aigles allowing Steve Nyisztor to score making it 2-0. Charlie Law slugged an RIBI double off the right in the 6th bringing in Joe Maloney extending the lead to 3-0.

Trois-Rivières cut into the lead in the 7th with Daniel Mateo clubbing a 2-out 2-run missile over the right field wall. Law added a key insurance run in the 8th lifting a sac fly to right scoring Junior Arrojo. Rockland’s bullpen stepped up in the 8th as Chad Robinson struck out 2 out of 3 hitters. With runners on the corner and 2 outs, Shawn Gilblair struck out Pedro Lopez to end the inning. Luis Sanz shut the door in the 9th getting Jose Cuevas to pop out to Nyisztor.

“Strike1, Strike 2 Bo was unreal with only one three ball count through the first four innings” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “The biggest moment of the game was Charlie driving in the run in the 8th” added Keefe. “The team battled, dug and clawed for runs”

In Game 1 Aigles starting pitcher Luis Munoz tossed a gem going 8 innings allowing just one run on one hit while striking out nine. Trois-Rivières plated the first run of the game in the 1st inning on a Javier Herrrera bloop single to right scoring Craig Hertler. The Aigles pushed the lead to 2-0 in the 4th on a RBI ground out from Jose Cuevas. A scary moment occurred on a foul pop up down the 3B line as Richard Salazar and Marcus Nidiffer with Salazar going down in a heap of pain by the dugout. However, Salazar shook off the effects and stayed in the game.

The Boulders were able to slice the lead in the 6th getting their first hit of the contest from Stephen Cardullo on RBI single to left scoring Jared McDonald. Salazar continued to keep Rockland in the game striking out the side in the 7th but had to leave the game in the 8th while covering 1st base on a ground ball hit by Hertler came up lame. Kaohi Downing pitched a scoreless 9th securing the victory.

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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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