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Boulders split abbreviated two game series against Ottawa

After dropping the first three games of the 2019 Can-Am League regular season against the Sussex County Miners, the Rockland Boulders returned back to Palisades Credit Union Park. There they took on the Ottawa Champions.


In the first game of the series, Rockland jumped to a first inning lead on a RBI single from Collin Ferguson. Ottawa answered back in the fourth on a two-run home run by Vincent Guglietti. The Boulders wasted no time responding in the bottom half of the frame on a run-producing single from John Brontsema.


The back and forth action continued in the fifth with Eduard Pinto belting a lead off home run off starter JD Busfield. Once again the Boulders displayed resiliency by playing some small ball. Chase Harris drew a walk and swiped both second and third base with Heyman up at the plate before running across home plate on a wild pitch uncorked by Champions relief pitch, Heath Bowers.


However, the highlight reel moment that Rockland had been searching for occurred with Matt Oberste blasting a two-run missile into the right field bleachers. Ottawa refused to go away quietly trimming the deficit to one run in the eighth but Brontsema drove in his second run of the contest on a bases loaded walk.


Jake Zokan came on in the ninth tossing a perfect ninth to preserve the win for Busfield and earn the save in the meantime. Busfield went five innings allowing three runs on nine hits, walking one and striking out three.


“Matt (Oberste) is a big part of our lineup and now got it going, said Manager Kevin Baez. He struggled earlier but a big presence in our lineup and has some power.”


Both teams had a quick turnaround the next day with a 10:30 a.m. start. Newly signed Joe DiBenedetto was given the pitching assignment. An error and pair of free passes issued by DiBenedetto led to Ottawa taking a 3-0 advantage. Rockland managed to cut the margin to 3-1 in the bottom half of the first on an RBI single from Matt Oberste. The Boulders had a golden opportunity to add to their run total with runners at second and third but Champions starter Phillippe Aumont struck out Jordan Hinshaw to end the inning.


In the second inning, DiBenedetto ran into further trouble yielding a two-run home run by Jiandido Tromp and allowing a RBI single off the bat of Brian Portelli. This ended his day on the hill surrendering six runs, six hits and walking five. It would only get worse for the Boulders in the third inning where they committed three errors leading to two more runs for Ottawa and increasing the total to 13 errors through the first four games of the season.


Making matters worse, Matt Oberste had to exit the contest with an injury as well as relief pitcher Brett Scheneider whom was injured during pitching warm-ups on the mound. On the flip side the bullpen, trio Tim Ponto, Landon Holifield and Josh Turner did a solid job keeping the Champions off the scoreboard during the rest of the contest while turning a couple of nifty double plays.


“Matt is a veteran type of guy, been around and his leadership will be sorely missed and out five to six weeks, Baez said. Schneider was throwing the ball well for us and pulled a muscle in his back and everything did check out afterwards so he will be ready to go this weekend and start for us. Tim Ponto came in and did a great job without really warming up and threw the ball well. The bullpen came in and did their job and kept us in the game. Di Benedetto couldn’t find the strike zone, fell behind and left a couple of fastballs over the plate and paid for it”


Once again Mother Nature interrupted the Boulders plans of completing a series, washing out the series finale on Thursday night forcing both teams to play a single admission doubleheader at Palisades Credit Union Park on Tuesday July 23rd.


“We did some infield/outfield today and comes along with younger group of guys, said Baez. We’re trying to win ball games but need to do a better job of catching/throwing/pitching the ball and throwing strikes. I told the guys we’re not panicking right now but at the end of the day we have to play better”


“We’re getting our work in, taking our ground ball, hitting, pitchers are working and when the games come you just play the game and why you do all the work necessary and get ready for the game and continue to do that. The game is about talent but also confidence and a matter of believing you can do it in a game situation and game becomes fast but you try to slow it down and be positive. We have do a better job with two strikes, runners in scoring position with less than two outs and take advantage of some opportunities”


Rockland hits the road for a six-game road trip starting with three in Quebec before facing off against Ottawa again. The Capitales have ended the Boulders’ season the last two years in the playoffs, sweeping the championship series in 2017 and winning a first round series 3-1 last year. Quebec is off to slow start as well at 2-5.


“I know a lot about Quebec and heard good things about them and the area, Baez said. I know they are struggling but have a good team and we have to come out with a better attitude and perform much better and message to the guys. The old cliché is you have to play one game at a time and can’t do anything about what happened yesterday or day before and attitude you go with and prepare for each game and season take scare of itself”

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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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