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Boulders split doubleheader against Sussex County

The Rockland Boulders split their doubleheader against Sussex County at home.

Having taken three out of four against the Quebec Capitales last weekend, the Rockland Boulders were looking to ride the winning wave against the first place Sussex County Miners in a three-game set. However, Mother Nature had other plans as rain washed out the series opener and planned doubleheader the next day.

The two teams scheduled a morning twin bill at 11:00 a.m. but once again rain wreaked havoc forcing a three and half hour delay. Once Game 1 got underway, Boulders starter Justin Brantley and Miners starter David Rollins faced off in a classic pitcher’s duel. Sussex County did not waste any time getting on the scoreboard, tallying an unearned run against Brantley in the first.

That would be the lone blemish for Brantley on the day as he tossed a gem for the remaining six innings, retiring the next 14 hitters in a row. Equally up to the task, Rollins dominated in six shutout innings on the mound, allowing seven hits, walking two and whiffing six.

Rockland twice had opportunities to tack on runs with runners in scoring position. However Sussex County right fielder Breland Almadova proved to be the buffer zone throwing out two runners at home plate. Miner relief pitcher Alex Demchak came on in the seventh and struck out two of three hitters to seal the 1-0 victory.

Rockland Boulders Manager Jamie Keefe on Game 1 and Justin Brantley’s performance, “Three base runners the entire game and he was absolutely dominant. He and Rollins were a really good match. We hit really well, two guys thrown out at the plate and not much you can do. We had our opportunities but couldn’t conquer them.”

Coming off a two home run performance in Sunday’s win, Conor Bierfeldt resumed his power display in Game 2 crushing a two-run missile on to the concourse in left field in the first inning. Making his first start since July 8th, Brad Schaenzer yielded two runs in the second on back-to-back sacrifice flies off the bats of Jayce Ray and Conor Crane. Jared Mederos put the Miners ahead in the third blasting a solo shot.

Bierfeldt continued his monstrous stretch swatting a titanic blast over the left field concourse with one out in the bottom half of the frame. In the fifth, the Boulders reached the century mark in home runs hit this season as Conrad Gregor belted his seventh of the year. Rockland is now 15 home runs from tying last season’s club record for most home runs hit during the regular season.

Schaenzer (1-1) gave way to Nick Kennedy in the sixth inning having surrendered three runs on four hits. After allowing a leadoff single and uncorking a wild pitch, Kennedy retired the final three batters. With rain coming down in buckets, Kyle Hansen came on to close it out in the seventh but Sussex County refused to lay down quietly. With two outs as Crane and Christian Correa each plated singles.

Hansen loaded up the bases issuing a free pass to Almadova but managed to coax Mederos on the first pitch to fly out to right field to earn his 11th save of the year. With the victory, Rockland improved their home record to 25-11.

“We swung the bats really well. Three home runs takes us where we need to be, and it is big for us,” said Keefe. “Schaenzer threw a heck of a game and was really good. After five, we go to Kennedy and Hansen, and they shut the door. We’re playing good defense and when you throw strikes and don’t walk anybody which we did in 14 innings is huge for us.”

Keefe on Bierfeldt and Gregor’s performances: “The ball is awfully big for Conor and he is seeing it really well. They pitch him up in the zone that you can’t do and he is going to put some air into it. Conrad is seeing it really well right now and can’t ask much more from him on a daily basis.”

On Thursday night the Boulders (33-30) wrap up an eight-game homestand taking on the New Jersey Jackals. Looking ahead to Friday, the series switches back to Yogi Berra Stadium for the remaining three games of the series. After a day off on Monday, Rockland ventures up North to face the Quebec Capitales in a three-game set.

“A big stretch coming up for us and we are playing the best baseball we have in a long time,” Keefe said.

“Trending into August, if we keep throwing the ball like we have, throwing strikes and playing good defense, this offense is going to break out at some point. We are starting to take advantage of teams’ mistakes.”

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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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