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Boulders looking to regroup after dropping series at Trois-Rivieres

Not even 50 games into the regular season and his sixth year as the Rockland Boulders manager, Jamie Keefe has never experienced a season with so many changes and injuries on the roster.

“I have not seen this in the Can-Am League before and it’s been a trying year,” Keefe said. “Got home around 2:30 this morning and probably put more hours in today than the last week and half on my off day. We’re trying to make things happen in a positive way to make us better. Familiar faces around here will not have a job, we need to get better and we get paid to win baseball games and when we don’t it’s not good.”

Things started out on a positive note in a three-game series at Trois-Rivieres. Starting pitcher Justin Brantley (3-0) earned his third win of the season in 5 2/3 innings on the mound, yielding two runs on three hits while walking four and striking out seven. Meanwhile, the bullpen trio of Nick Kennedy, Matt Kostalos and Kyle Hansen made the lead stick, hurling three shutout innings surrendering just two hits, walking one and whiffing four. Hansen registered his eighth save of the season. Jared McDonald and Mike Montville led the offensive charge, driving in two runs apiece.

In game two of the series, Rockland did not waste any time jumping out to a quick lead in the first inning off the bat of Marcus Nidiffer slugging a grand slam. However, the Aigles roared back with seven straight runs knocking Boulders starter Travis Hissong after just one and two-thirds of an inning. Montville continued to swing the hot bat bashing a three run homer that tied the game up in the fourth.

Conrad Gregor briefly put Rockland up in the seventh with an RBI single only to see the Aigles tie it up in the eighth and ultimately win it in 10 innings. The bullpen combo of Frank Moscatiello and Andy Lalonde did a superb job in relief throwing 5 1/3 innings allowing just one run, walking one and whiffing nine batters.

In the series finale, rookie Brad Schaenzer lasted just three innings tagged for two runs on three hits and walking one. However, the Boulders managed to take a 3-2 lead starting with Marcus Nidiffer leading off the fourth with his 12 homer of the season, Aaron Wilson belting a bases loaded RBI single and Jared McDonald sac fly. Trois-Rivieres answered back with the long ball as Taylor Oldham and Taylor Brennan knocked solo shots out of the park to regain the advantage.

Frustrated with the umpiring crew, Keefe had seen enough getting ejected from the game by home plate umpire Joey Napoli. Down 8-3 after a three-run missile over the right center wall by Javier Herrera, the Boulders chipped away at the deficit as Mike Montville knocked in a pair in the seventh giving him a total of seven RBI in the series and Conor Bierfeldt smoking his 9th homer of the season in the eighth but that would as close as Rockland would get the rest of the way dropping to 26-22 on the season.

“Any chance you can give yourself at the end of the game with the tying run at the plate and all that matters with this lineup and one swing we can tie the game up no matter who it is,” said Keefe. “At the end of the day we do lose the series, tough one to lose for sure. We’re almost to game 50 and changes are going to happen.”

“We need to make some moves to get better with our pitching and we’re close to finding guys and have a couple coming in the next couple of days that are going to help us and hope these transactions are in the right direction. Offensively doing a pretty good job but pitching and defense need to get better.”

After an off day on Monday, Rockland returns to Palisades Credit Union Park taking on the New Jersey Jackals in the doubleheader before the series switches back to Yogi Berra Stadium on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. concluding the series. There is no rest for the weary as the Boulders hop on the bus and begin a four game series at Quebec (31-17) starting on Thursday evening. Currently the Jackals (25-22) are half-game behind Rockland in the Can-Am League standings.

“A three-game series and we have to take of that,” Keefe said. “Don’t take two out of three, you’re in trouble and we’re at that point we need to take series and got to take care of game one.”

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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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