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Boulders sweep Ottawa; Winning Streak Reaches Nine


Heading into a series with the Ottawa Champions at Palisades Credit Union Park, the Rockland Boulders showed no signs of slowing down sweeping the three-game set and extending their winning streak to nine games; now winning 14 out of their last 15 games.

Manager Jamie Keefe said seeing Stephen Cardullo hitting his first major league home run as a member of the Colorado Rockies and following it up with a grand slam gave the team a shot in the arm and seeing it on the video scoreboard was pretty special.

In game one of the series, Rockland was stymied for the first five innings as Ottawa starting pitcher Yean Carlos Gil did not yield a hit. Meanwhile, Brett Palanski weaved his way out of numerous jams. After Devin Harris drew a one-out walk, Leandro Castro came up with the first hit of the game. Mike Montville stepped up and delivered all the offense needed on the night with a two-run single.

The Champions got on the board in the sixth with Alexander Mallets scoring on a grounder hit by Donal Duarte that kicked off Junior Arrojo into shallow right field. With the bases loaded and two outs, Pat Butler came on and struck out Albert Cartwright. Ottawa had one last surge in the ninth with runners on first and second but Hector Nelo slammed the door striking out Kenny Bryant to end the game registering his 16th save of the season.

“It was a good baseball game with two teams’ battling each other and obviously are going to face each other in the playoffs,” Jamie Keefe said. “Palanski pitched out jams, got ground balls and strikeouts when he needed to. Nice to see Montville growing and learning on a daily basis and able to bear down with two strikes and get himself a base hit that was huge.”

“I went through a streak where I was not super productive so it feels good to get the team back on a roll again and down the season stretch,” said Mike Montville. “We’re taking things day by day and guys are getting into a groove.”

Rockland relied on the long ball in game two of the series to pull out a dramatic 6-4 victory in 10 innings. On a tear during the month of August, Jared Schlehuber lit up the scoreboard slugging his 14th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the first inning. In the third inning, Mike Fransoso got into the act smoking his third of the year deep over the right field wall. Schlehuber drove in his third run of the game with an RBI single.

However, Ottawa refused to go away quietly slowly chipping away at the lead starting with Matt Helms two out home run in the fourth inning. Helms delivered another two-out run producer in the 8th lashing a grounder off Pat McKenna into shallow right field scoring Kenny Bryant making it 4-3. Hector Nelo attempted to lockdown the save in the 9th only to see the Champions tie it up on an Albert Cartwright RBI single.

The Boulders had a golden opportunity in the ninth to win it after loading up the bases with two outs but Mike Montville grounded out to second. In the 10th, Ottawa returned the favor with Nelo inducing Adron Chambers into a fly out to right field. Fransoso wasted no time ending the game launching his second homer, a monstrous blast on to the walkway in the right field corner. Nelo recorded his 5th win of season in relief.

“A team win and kept battling and fighting,” Mike Fransoso said. “I had a couple of good swings and just trying to slow everything down and have good quality at bats and stay within myself. The last few games it’s translating into hits and a few more home runs. It feels great and we have to look at it one game at a time and play the same type of baseball whether we win or lose and go out and do the same thing all over again. A good time to be rolling before the playoffs.”

“They had their chances and we had ours,” Jamie Keefe said. “We had the opportunity late and I can’t say enough about Fransoso as it was huge for him. We needed someone to take Jared’s spot and that’s not an easy role to fill. We need to fight through these tough ones and gritted it out.”

“Hector has been called upon a lot last ten days and threw a lot more,” Keefe explained. “His control has not been there of late but good pitchers’ rise to the occasion and still get the win in the end. An incredible month for Jared (Schlehuber) and to do it in 25 games. He has slid nicely into that four-hole spot really well.”

In the series finale, Rockland jumped out of the gate early scoring twice in the second on back-to-back RBI singles from Leandro Castro and Mike Montville. Starter David Fischer continued his dominance on the mound tossing six shutout innings while yielding three hits, striking out five and two walks for his ninth win and fifth straight. Fischer regained the Can-Am league strikeout lead with 110.

Mike Adams relieved Fischer in the 7th and ran into a jam with runners on second and third with one out. The defense came to Adams aid courtesy of Mike Fransoso fielding a grounder hit by Michael Mastroberti and firing a strike home as Marcus Nidiffer would apply the tag on Matt Helms. Adams ended the inning striking out Jonathan Salcedo.

In the bottom of the frame with the bases loaded, Nidiffer provided some insurance driving a two-run bloop single to center. The bases remained loaded as Castro added his second RBI of the game ripping a single to left center.

Ottawa managed to trim the lead to 5-2 in the 8th but Pat Butler got Donal Duarte to ground into a force out ending the inning. Mike Montville put an exclamation point on the game cranking his 10th home run of the season into the right center field bleachers.

“We have been on that other side of it this year and playing well at right time this year,” said Jamie Keefe. “The last two series have been a lot of fun and what a great start for Fischer. Salazar has worked with him to get where he needs to be and has incredible stuff when he is able to locate and nobody is going to hit him in this league.”

“We picked up Leandro for a reason because he puts the ball in play and loves RBI’s. He is never out of it no matter who he is facing and is aggressive in the zone and going to make you pay.”

Rockland (56-39) finishes up the regular season with an important five game series against the first place New Jersey Jackals at Palisades Credit Union Park. Currently, the Boulders trail New Jersey by three games in the Can-Am League standings.

“We want to win the league for a third year in a row and go in and do what we have to do,” said Jamie Keefe. “Along the way guys are going to get them at bats and take care of the bullpen by not blowing them out on Sunday and Monday. Going to go hard at it but be smart about it.”

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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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