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Boulders Looking to Regroup After Being Swept in Four Game Series

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)


Mother Nature figured prominently in the four-game series between the Rockland Boulders and New Jersey Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair, New Jersey. Heavy rains washed out both Thursday and Saturday games forcing two doubleheaders to be played in the span of 48 hours.

In game one last Friday, New Jersey jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against Boulders starter Richard Salazar in the first inning on a two-run homer off the bat of Johnny Bladel. In the second inning, Rylan Sandoval put the Jackals up 3-0 with a bases loaded sac fly to right center. Salazar settled down from that point on retiring eight hitters in a row.

Rockland started chipping away at the margin in the third; with runners on first and second, Junior Arrojo hit a grounder to third baseman Taylor Brennan and on the low throw to first base the ball skipped by Art Charles allowing Aaron Wilson to score. Mike Fransoso followed with a RBI fielder’s choice. Devin Harris continued to swing the hot bat ripping a single into center scoring Fransoso slicing the lead down to 4-3.

With runners at first and second and one out, New Jersey starter Fernando Cruz slammed the door striking out Jared Schlehuber and getting some help from left fielder Michael O’Neill making a sensational diving catch on a sinking line drive by Mike Montville. Jackals centerfielder Taylor Brennan added an insurance run for New Jersey in the sixth with a sac fly to right brining in D’Vontrey Richardson from third.

“We hit back and they hit us with a left jab and it is what it is,” Manager Jamie Keefe said. “We were in it until the end and had the tying run at the plate in the seventh and that is all we can do. Rich had some control issues with the walks  but made pitches when we had to.”

In game two of the twin bill, Junior Arrojo put Rockland ahead early belting his sixth home run over the left field fence in the first inning. Jared Schlehuber added to the power surge crushing his fifth round tripper of the season and team leading 45th RBI to straightaway center.

The Jackals answered back in the second off starter David Fischer as Michael O’Neill laced a two-out two-run single into right field tying it at 2-2. Marcus Nidiffer put the Boulders back on top in the third drilling a two-run triple into the right center gap. Devin Harris followed lifting a fly ball to right where New Jersey right fielder Cory Vaughn and second baseman Rylan Sandoval bumped into each other as Vaughn reeled in the catch allowing Nidiffer to come into score easily on the sac fly.

New Jersey refused to go away quietly as Fischer uncorked a wild pitch in the bottom half of the inning as Vaughn came across to score making it 5-3. Well over 100 pitches in the fifth and with runners on first and second, Fischer faced off against Richard Stock who smoked a three-run moonshot over the right center wall.

Frustrations boiled over for Jamie Keefe as he was ejected in the sixth inning. Controversy ensued in the bottom sixth with Art Charles bashing a missile by the right field foul pole and was ruled foul. That led to one last opportunity for Rockland to tie the game up in the seventh. Junior Arrojo led off a single and eventually reached third on a wild pitch. Devin Harris stepped up to the plate and just missed a two-run home run socking a drive to the warning track in right field that Vaughn caught for the final out.

“It was one of those days and what are you going to say,” said Keefe. “You watched it and very frustrating and I’m not going to sit here and refuse to talk about the umpires but that’s a g-damn shame. It was that the whole night and very difficult to find out what the strike zone was from the first inning on.”

“Fischer had given up one hit and three runs and on a 3-0 count is trying to get one over and the guy hits it out of the ballpark and you have to tip your hat to him (Richard Stock). At the end of the day we go home with two losses and it hurts.”

On Sunday, New Jersey jumped out an early advantage on a RBI ground out from Art Charles. In the second inning, Eddie Newton belted a two-out drive down the right field that eluded the diving Mike Montville for a two-run triple. Participating in the American Association All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday at CHS Field in St. Paul Minnesota Boulders catcher Marcus Nidiffer put on a power display bashing his team leading 12th and 13th home runs of the season.

The Jackals tacked on two runs in the 4th with déjà vu striking again as Newton followed a similar script smacking a two-out triple in the exact spot and past a diving Montville scoring D’Vontrey Richardson. Cory Vaughn put the game clobbering a grand slam off Luis Sanz in the sixth inning.

“Twice today we had two outs and walked a guy and led to four runs in the game that was the difference,” Keefe said.

“Joe pitched well enough to get out of the game. Luis tried to get a two-seamer down and it ends up and guy hits a grand slam and that’s one thing. Look at the fluke thing that happened. Marcus is starting to see it and that’s a good sign. The rest of the guys have to start swinging it too and we just can’t piece one, two, three or four runs and think we are going to win ball games especially against this ball club.”

In game two, it did not take a hit for the Boulders to get on the scoreboard in the first inning. With Devin Harris up at the plate and runners at first and second with one out, Jackals starter uncorked a wild pitch and when the ball ricocheted back to catcher Richard Stcok his throw to home plate skipped by Sosa covering home allowing both Pat McKenna and Junior Arrojo to come into score.

New Jersey responded in the bottom of the inning on one swing on Art Charles Can-Am League leading 18th homer of the season. Rylan Sandoval tied the game at 2 in the fourth on two-out RBI single to left field.

In the sixth, Boulders starter Mike Adams exited the game after allowing a lead off double to Jackals left fielder Daniel Rockett. Pat Butler came into pitch with one out and Michael O’Neill put New Jersey ahead with a sac fly to left. Charles padded the lead driving in his second run of the game with an RBI double into the left center gap. In the ninth, Rockland went 1-2-3.

“We jump out to a 2-0 lead without any hits and take them anyway we can get them but you can’t win with three or four hits a game,” said Keefe. “We have to make some adjustments and changes.”

The Boulders (38-29) have dropped five in a row and are tied with the Quebec Capitales for second place in the Can-Am League standings, four and half games back of New Jersey for first place. After the All-Star concludes on Wednesday, Rockland travels to Quebec for an important four-game set.

“We get away from each other for the next three days and back at it when we get up to Quebec and get a little breather now,” Keefe said. “That’s as poorly as we have played and nothing we can do about it now and put it behind us and ready to move on.”

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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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