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Boulders one game out of first place after taking 2 out of 3 at New Jersey

Having won six out of their last seven games including taking two out of three against the 2018 defending Can-Am League Champions in the Sussex County Miners, the Rockland Boulders hit the road for a six games starting first with a three-game set against the New Jersey Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair, New Jersey.

In the series opener last Friday, Rockland fell behind 2-0 after the first inning. Playing catch-up all night long it was a former Boulders player that would seal the win for New Jersey in first baseman Conrad Gregor driving in two runs along with belting his third home run of the season in the seventh inning as the Jackals won 5-3. Starter Reinoldo Lopez was tagged with the loss surrendering four runs, with two them earned as Rockland committed two errors, yielding 11 hits, walking two and striking out two in five and one third innings on the mound.

On Saturday evening, Blake Grant-Parks provided an early boost of momentum cranking a solo home run over the right field wall in the third inning. However, it would be short lived as New Jersey answered back with three runs in the fourth. The Boulders did not get flustered responding in the seventh with Grant-Parks delivering once again with a two-run single. Stepping up to the plate next, third baseman Richie Fecteau walloped a two-run missile over the right field wall that ultimately proved to be the game-winner.

“A very good feeling, I got off to a slow start, made a couple of adjustments the last few days, just trying to slow the game down as a hitter and put a couple of good swings together,” said Fecteau. “As a team it’s big to keep winning series, having a lot of fun and keeping it loose.”

Getting the starting nod, Tim Ponto lasted four innings permitting three runs on six hits, walking one and fanning five. The bullpen held the fort down the remaining five innings giving up one run, three hits, walking four and striking out four as Nick Kennedy registered his second win of the season in the 7-4 victory.

Ryne Birk got things off a good note leading off the game with a single that extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Returning to the lineup after several weeks on the disabled list, Matt Oberste drove in his second run of the series in the first inning off Jackals starter Anthony Fernandez. Adam Ehrlich followed with another run producing single that brought in John Brontsema. New Jersey did not waste anytime scoring with Conrad Gregor driving in his third run of the series in the bottom half of the frame off Boulders starter Pasquale Mazzoccoli.

Richie Fecteau continued to display power at the plate leading off the fourth with a solo blast over the right field wall. Jackals left fielder Alfredo Marte got into the long ball act crushing a titanic shot off the left field scoreboard. The back and forth action carried into the fifth as Oberste drove in his second run of the contest. With two outs, Blake Grant-Park provided some further cushion for Mazzoccoli drilling an RBI single to centerfield.

“It feels good, I was out a couple of weeks due to an injury and coming back just trying to have good at bats, seeing the ball in the zone and not try to chase too many pitches and ended up working out,” said Oberste.

“We got off to a slow start out of the gate, one day the pitching would have a good game and vice versa with the hitting and we couldn’t piece it together and now been consistent with it. Everyone is having good at bats, protecting the guy behind or in front of them.”

Helped out by terrific defense plays in the infield as well as Ehrlich throwing out a couple of base runners from behind the plate Mazzoccoli chalked up six innings conceding two runs, one earned, five hits, walking two and striking out three.

New Jersey refused to go away quietly trimming the deficit to 5-3 in the seventh as Jay Gonzalez ripped an RBI single off Nick Kennedy. With runners at first and second two outs, Kennedy avoided further damage inducing Santiago Chirino into grounding into a force out at second base. The Jackals kept pressing ahead in the eighth with Marte plating his second RBI on a double down the left field line off Tommy Shirley. With a runner at third and one out, Shirley reared back and struck out the last two hitters to escape further trouble.

Looking to nail down his sixth save of the year, Robbie Gordon got off to a strong start recording the first two outs before Gonzalez reached on an infield single. Undeterred Gordon put an end to any hopes of New Jersey tying the game up getting Chirino to ground out to shortstop Cito Culver as Mazzoccoli (2-1) picked up his second win.

Manager Kevin Baez on the series win, “Definitely have been playing better, got a couple of guys healthy and Matt Oberste back playing. Everyone has been really contributing, good pitching and hitting and how you win ball games. Richie is getting more playing time of late, taking advantage of it and we need him to step up, hit home runs in back-to-back games and playing good defense.”

“Adam has been outstanding, when he went to Quebec he just took off from there and playing outstanding defense and called a great game. Wherever I put Brontsema either at shortstop or third base he gives you good at bats and Birk playing outstanding at second base.”

By taking two out of three games in the series along with the Miners losing to Quebec on Saturday Rockland (13-8) moved to within one game of Sussex County (14-7) for first place in the Can-Am league standings. After a day off on Monday, the Boulders travel up to Canada taking on Trois-Rivieres in a three game series at Stade Stero+ with the series opener on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m.

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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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