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Boulders split doubleheader and series with Sussex County

After rain washed out Saturday’s scheduled doubleheader between the Rockland Boulders and Sussex County Miners at Palisades Credit Union Park, both teams’ attempted to play a twin bill on Sunday afternoon.

In game 1, Rockland got off on a right note scoring twice in the second inning. With the bases loaded, Aaron Wilson hit a dribbler up the first base line, Sussex County starter Cory Jones attempted to toss the ball to catcher Luis Alen but the ball sailed over Alen allowing two runs to score on the play. However, the lead was short lived as the Miners struck back for two runs against Boulders starter Nick Sarianides in the third inning.

Sarianides struggles continued in the fourth as Sussex County had runners on the corner with none out when Martin Figueroa put the Miners ahead with a sac fly. After yielding a walk, things would further go downhill for Sarianides coming up lame with a groin injury after tossing a pitch to Jarred Mederos.

Manager Jamie Keefe called upon Nick Kennedy to replace Sarianides on the hill. After a rough outing in the home opener, Kennedy’s struggles continued as Mederos cranked a three-run blast on top of the awning in right field.

Kennedy managed to right the ship retiring nine hitters in a row. However, Rockland’s offense was stymied by Mark McCoy 3 2/3 shutout innings and four strikeouts. A 34-minute rain delay turned out to be the perfect remedy for Rockland. With Arona Nina coming on to pitch in the seventh, the Boulders went to work starting with Aaron Wilson’s lead off single and Jared McDonald drawing a free pass. With one out, Cody Regis bashed a three-run missile just fair inside the right field pole. Sussex County manager Bobby Jones went to the bullpen signaling for Brent Jones who retired the final Rockland hitters for the win.

“At the end of the day we have to recover and make our pitches when have the chance,” said Keefe. “Hope we can get it going and turn it around quickly. We just have to skate through this series and worry about the rest later. We’re still learning what we need to do, have an idea of where we are at and who we are. We are looking for our identity right now. We’re fighting at the end and giving ourselves a chance to win.”

Game 2 did not start off on the right note for Rockland as the Miners tagged starter Kagen Hopkins for three runs in the first inning. However, Cody Regis continued his torrid streak smoking his second home run of the season while pushing his RBI total to a team high six RBI, a two-run into the “Short Porch” area in right field.

“Trying to build off last year, started from scratch with my approach and swing, had success last year and just worked on building that and working on positives and negatives,” said Regis. The first few games I’m feeling good and seeing the ball well. We’re starting to click, kind of tough during training camp with a lot of rainouts and not many live at bats and kind of behind the eight ball that is no excuse.”

A pitcher’s duel ensued between Hopkins, retiring 14 out of 15 and Miners starter Tyler Alexander setting down 11 in a row at one point. The Boulders managed to break through in the fifth with Mike Montville clobbering a lead off homer into the left field grandstand, Montville’s first long ball of the season. With runners on first and second and two outs, Kevin Krause drilled a single to left field plating JC Rodriguez. Marcus Nidiffer padded the advantage with a two-run single. Sussex County responded with a run of their own in the sixth but Alex Herceg’s sac fly in the bottom of the frame made it a three-run game again.

Keefe called on Kyle Hansen to close out the game in the seventh but Hansen ran into immediately trouble surrendering a lead off single and to Luis Alen and walking John Fussell and Jared Mederos to load up the bases.

Jayce Ray stepped up to the plate next and hit a grounder to Mikael Mogues who decided to throw to the ball to second base but ended up air-mailing the ball into left center field allowing two runs to score. Audy Ciriaco followed smacking a line drive to centerfield but Mike Montville made a sprawling catch on the play. However, Mederos tagged up at third and came into score easily. Hansen escaped further damage striking out Breland Almadova.

In the bottom half of the inning, Sussex County manager Bobby Jones turned to Kevin Grendall to pitch. Kevin Krause sent the home crowd happy and kept the Boulders from dropping to 0-3 at home, hammering a walk-off solo shot just clearing the yellow line in the left center field bleachers.

“I’m just trying to go up there and feel loose as I can and not gripping the bat too tightly,” said Krause. “Staying clear minded and look for my particular zone and stay with that, pitch selection is crucial.”

Manager Jamie Keefe on the home run and victory in Game 2, “I don’t think anyone had any doubt we were going to win that game. We needed a little grit and fire and found it tonight. 2-2 at this juncture, we have lost two starters in the first four games and much else to do or say. Krause got a ball to put in play, most anti-climatic walk-off home run and I knew it was gone.”

“It’s early and enormous game for us today. These guys have to realize we have to win series. 1-2 at home never happens and can’t do that. We usually play .600 ball or better at home.”

After a day off, the Boulders return to action on Tuesday night with a three-game series against the defending Can-Am League Champion Quebec Capitales. The last time both teams’ met Quebec swept Rockland in the championship series.

“It’s big, last year we had a bad taste at the end of it and it’s good to get them back in our stadium early on in the year,” Regis said. “We want to see what they’re made of and hit them back.”

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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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