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Boulders, Jackals Split Four Game Series

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The highly anticipated first showdown of the 2016 season between the Rockland Boulders and New Jersey certainly lived up to the billing featuring ejections, hit by pitches, plenty of jawing between both dugouts, home runs, errors and spectacular defensive plays. Playing a four-game series at Yogi Berra Stadium, Rockland managed to earn a split despite getting shutout twice. The Boulders record stand at 14-9, one and half games behind the Jackals for first place in the Can-Am League.

Game one featured plenty of fireworks starting in the bottom of the 2nd with New Jersey centerfielder Dvontrey Richardson attempted to score all the way from 2nd with two outs on a ground ball hit by Eddie Netwon. Richardson charged full force into Boulders catcher Alex DeBellis but somehow DeBellis remarkably held on to the ball for the final out of the inning. Tempers flared for a brief time as both dugouts emptied out and words were exchanged.

A major scare ensued in the 3rd for Rockland when a high inside fastball by New Jersey starter Lee Sosa plunked Junior Arrojo on the helmet. Arrojo stayed down on the ground for several minutes before walking off on his own power to the dugout and miraculously stayed in the game. After a sac bunt by Mike Fransoso moved Jared McDonald and Arrojo over to second and third, Marcus Nidiffer lifted a sac fly to right bringing in McDonald. Jared Schlehuber continued his red-hot month at the plate belting a double off the left field wall scoring Arrojo.

Rockland starting pitcher David Fischer rolled along through six innings fanning six back-to-back K’s ending the 6th inning to earn his first win of the season. Arrrojo ended up getting hit by a pitch for a 2nd time in the 7th but used his speed on the base paths to swipe both second and third. Schlehuber knocked in his second run of the game with an RBI groundout.

New Jersey trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the 8th on a 2-run homer by Michael O’Neill. However, it was McDonald who saved the day tracking down a line shot into the left center gap off pinch hitter Adam Martin and stretching out to making an acrobatic catch.

The Jackals had one last scoring opportunity in the 9th with Richardson reaching on an infield single. Richardson attempted to steal second and looked as though he had slid in safely but the field umpire called him out leading to the ejection of Manager Joe Calfapietra and Richardson who argued vociferously. Nelo wrapped up the game and 5th save of the season getting Newton to ground out.

“Huge for us and set the tone for the series in taking game one” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “DeBellis has been worried so much about his throwing but to come up with that play in that situation is money,” added Keefe. “You have to look at the situational stuff tonight, Mike Fransoso not thinking twice about dropping down a bunt and it’s on own and next pitch we come up with a double and RBI”

“When I got ahead I was most effective and I got into a groove in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th and was finishing off pitches” said David Fischer. “The first two innings I got ahead of guys and didn’t finish 0-2 by making some bad pitches over the middle and they got some hits which I have been doing a lot of late and got fed up and said I’m not doing this anymore” added Fischer. “We made some great defensive plays and offense getting across run early to give a two0run lead really went a long way”

New Jersey put away game two of the series early scoring eight runs in the first three innings. The Jackals slugged three home runs on the night including two from first baseman Art Charles who amassed 6 RBI’s. Rockland starter Jarret Martin was tagged for his second loss allowing 8 runs on 7 hits in three innings.

“Everything we threw was a strike and I think I have not see that before and it was one of those nights” said Jamie Keefe. “Jarret was around the plate and the score was 7-0 and thrown only 26 pitches” added Keefe. “We hit the ball hard at people, into double plays and line drives”

Rockland got off to an early lead in the third game of the series thanks to a couple of walks by New Jersey starter Matt Loosen. With the bases loaded and Mike Schwartz at the plate, Jared McDonald scored on a passed ball. In the 2nd, McDonald blooped a two out single bringing in Alex DeBellis.

The Jackals sliced the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom half of the frame on a sac fly by Rylan Sandoval. In the fourth, New Jersey catcher Richard Stock tripled with one out but Boulders starter Markus Solbach worked out of the jam getting Dvontrey Richardson on a comebacker to the mound and Riley Palmer snaring a line drive off the bat of Johnny Bladel.

Jared McDonald drove in his second run of the game socking his 5th homer of the season leading off the 5th making it 4-1. Stock sliced the deficit to 4-2 in the 6th with a solo blast. Richardson tripled down the left field line with two outs. Attempting to steal home in between pitches Solbach tossed quickly to home where DeBellis applied the tag for the final out of the inning. Solbach turned in another quality start hurling 7 innings while yielding two runs on eight hits and striking out three earning his third win of the season.

In the 7th, the Boulders expanded the lead to 6-2 thanks to a couple of defensive miscues in the field by New Jersey. Junior Arrojo drew a walk with one out and swiped both second and third due to a throw into centerfield. Mike Fransoso ripped a single with the infield drawn in scoring Arrojo. Fransoso scored all the way from first base without a hit, stealing second, moving to third on a throw sailing into center and when Richardson’s throw ended up in the Jackals dugout Fransoso was awarded home plate.

“We produced runs without the bat which we needed to do” said Jamie Keefe. “Jared is on and that creates havoc,” added Keefe. “We’re a little banged up right now but hitting our stride and winning ball games” “Markus has a lot of spin on his pitches and his two-seamer is nasty and keeps hitters off balance”

“I didn’t have a lot of strikeouts tonight but it’s about throwing the right pitch at the right time and getting a double play or pop out” said Markus Solbach.

“It’s all starting to click for us and the speed on this team can do a lot of good things for us and put pressure on teams’ and make them play defense” said Jared McDonald. “The swing definitely feels a lot better and locked in” “Not missing pitches like I did earlier in the year and capitalizing on them”

In the rubber match of the series, Rockland’s offense was kept in check by New Jersey starter Whit Mayberry who tossed five shutout innings and allowing no hits. The Jackals relief pitching combination of Robert Stock and Fernando Cruz not only kept the Boulders off the scoreboard but from getting a hit until Marcus Nidiffer broke up the no-hitter with two outs in the 9th with a single to left field.

Rockland returns to Palisades Credit Union Park on Tuesday for a four-game series against the Sussex County Miners.

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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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