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Photo by Drew Wohl

Photo by Drew Wohl

After taking three out of four games against Sussex County, the Rockland Boulders returned to Palisades Credit Union Park for an important six-game home stand. First up was the second place Quebec Capitales.

Led by Can-Am League home run leader Kalian Sams, the Capitales were a potent offense with a team batting average of .306, 57 home runs, 299 RBI’s, 318 runs, 574 hits and 191 walks.

In the first game of the series versus Quebec, the complexion of the team and season changed in a flash when Jon Smith and Mike Fransoso violently collided into each other in the first inning on a shallow pop up hit by the Capitales’ Maxx Tissenbaum. Both players were down on the field for an extended time and ultimately departed the game.

Jordan Lennerton put Quebec up with a two-run home run into the Short Porch area in right field. Rockland did not waste any time tying the game up in the bottom of the frame with Cody Regis smashing his 9th homer of the season, a two-run missile on to the concourse in right field.

The momentum swung back in Quebec’s favor in the next couple of innings, scoring four runs off Boulders starter Chris Carmain. With the injuries to Smith and Fransoso, Mikael Mogues entered the game at first base, and that immediately paid off dividends in the fourth inning with Mogues going deep for the first time in a Rockland uniform, a three-run laser on to the concourse in right field.

Daniel Arribas got into the act as well making it back-to-back jacks and his first in a Boulders uniform, socking a solo shot into the left bleachers tying the contest up.

The real sparkplug on this night turned out to be Aaron Wilson, who came into play second base with a bunch of players shuffling positions. Wilson orchestrated the comeback, slugging a three-run missile into the right center bleachers in the fifth inning.

The Capitales did not back down tacking on three runs to cut the deficit down to one run in the seventh. Not be overshadowed, Wilson drove in his fourth of the game on a sacrifice fly in the seventh and for good measure cleared the bases in the eighth lashing a triple into the right center gap. Despite surrendering six runs on nine hits in five innings, Carmain (4-2) struck out seven and earned his fourth win of the season.

“Watching those guys go down definitely hurt us, two key contributors to our team, so I was ready to step in and give everything I got and be able to help the team,” said Aaron Wilson. “We’re always battling back, could be down five runs and we’re in the game and never backing down” “Another opportunity in front of me and able to make the best out of it.”

“A win is a win, and between both teams’ lost three really good players and on our minds we feel for Kalian, obviously Smith and Fransoso,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Carmain only threw one bad pitch in the game and threw the ball well and still able to battle” “We’re just at the point every inning counts” “Aaron is seeing the ball well and very active player, and when he is on he is good as they gets.”

“I was hoping he (Jon Smith) would come in and have a decent year and had the year more than I thought he would have” “A great guy and the guys love him in the clubhouse” “Been around for seven years and goes about his business and plays the game hard and someone going to be missed”

It was a quick turn around for both teams’ playing at 11 a.m. the next day. Joe Maloney bashed his 19th home run of the season. The Boulders welcomed back “The Captain” Marcus Nidiffer to the team, and he did not disappoint driving in a run.

Down 3-1 in the sixth, Aaron Wilson picked up where he left off the night before driving in a run on a sacrifice fly, while Daniel Arribas tied the game up with an RBI single. The back and forth affair continued as Yordan Manduley tied the contest up in the eighth on a sacrifice fly.

Justin Topa yielded four runs on four hits while walking two and striking out four in 7 1/3 innings on the mound. Handing the ball off to the bullpen, Daniel Rockett slugged a game-winning three-run homer in the ninth off Alex Farina.

“Justin made one mistake the entire game and probably had the best stuff he had all year and pitched well and shame he didn’t get the win,” Keefe said. “We just didn’t get the win, had plenty of chances early in the game to add on run wise and didn’t do that and make pitches when we needed to in the game.”

“Nice to see us offensively putting the ball in play and not had done that of late” “We’re making other mistakes such as five outs on the bases, something we just don’t do” “Nice to have Nidiffer back in there and see a smile on his face for first time in three weeks”

In the series finale, Cody Regis went deep for a second time in the series, walloping a monstrous first inning solo blast off one of the billboard signs in the concourse area in right field for his 10th home run of the season.

Meanwhile, Rockland starter Ari Kaufman cruised through the first five innings, but Maxx Tissenbaum changed that in a flash in the sixth, belting a three-run homer into the Short Porch in right field.

Controversy ensued in the bottom half of the frame with Regis drilling a shot down the right field line that curved around the foul pole. Field umpire Mayhue Edwards ruled the ball foul as manager Jamie Keefe argued the call, but it eventually stood.

Despite the ruling, Marcus Nidiffer crushed a triple to dead center-field scoring Dylan Tice from second. With runners on first and second in the seventh, a fielding error by Mogues allowed James McOwen to come into score.

With the rain coming down in the buckets, a delay of 55 minutes occurred. Thomas Lawrence entered to pitch for Rockland with runners on first and second but managed to retire the last two batters.

Nidiffer drove in his second run of the game and third in two games with a two-out single once again cutting the deficit to one run. Loading up the bases with two outs, Capitales reliever Tyson Gillies struck out Aaron Wilson. Quebec had an answer in the ninth as Rockett swatted a two-out solo homer into the left field bleachers.

Refusing to throw in the white towel, the Boulders answered back in the ninth as Cody Regis fouled off several pitches before cracking a single to right field scoring Daniel Arribas. Facing closer Nolan Becker with runners on the corner and two outs, Joe Maloney struck out to end the game.

“These are games that wear on you, glad it’s over and put it behind us,” said Keefe. “To lose a couple of calls, Cody has a home run to put us ahead and they call it foul” “Happy for him(Ari Kaufman) and he is comfortable throwing to a different catcher who has experience and throwing for a pitching coach and manager who want him to be himself” “He is able to pitch and attack with his fastball” “You can’t ask more than that with Joe(Maloney) up at the plate and facing a lefty in Becker who made some good pitches”

So far this season the Boulders have split the season series with New Jersey with both team’s winning five games apiece. The last time both teams’ squared off against each other, the Jackals swept the three-game set at Palisades Credit Union Park.

“We’re happy to be where we are at and 18 to 19 games over .500,” Keefe said. “We need to turn the corner and play better baseball” “We did the small things past couple of days and know where our weaknesses are and going to make some changes and need to.”

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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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