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Boulders swept by Sussex County

Heading into a three-game series against the Sussex County Miners at Skylands Stadium in Augusta, New Jersey ,the Rockland Boulders were a confident group. Rockland entered the series winners of four in a row and three games behind the Miners in the Can-Am League standings.

However, on this Friday morning the Boulders (21-18) find themselves sitting six games behind Sussex County (27-12) and in fourth place in the standings after the Miners swept the series. Rockland was outscored 19-6 and scoring just two runs in the last two games. Making matters worse, the Boulders left a total of 23 runners on base.

Some of the bright moments for the Boulders in the series were increasing the team total in home runs to 60 and Marcus Nidiffer reaching double digits in home runs for a fifth consecutive season with his 10th of the year in the first game of the series. Reliever Andy Lalonde hurled three shutout innings in the second game while striking out six.

In Thursday night’s series finale, Brad Schaenzer made not his Rockland Boulders debut but his first professional baseball appearance on the mound. Despite getting tagged with the loss, Schaenzer was impressive in tossing five innings, surrendering three runs on five hits, walking two and fanning one.

Both teams’ were frustrated with home umpire Joe Napoli’s strike zone all night. Manager Jamie Keefe had seen enough in the fifth inning when Napoli rung up Conor Bierfeldt. After a lengthy argument Napoli ejected Keefe from the game.

Down 4-0 entering the ninth, Rockland trimmed the advantage to 4-1 on a Mike Montville sacrifice fly. Managing to load up the bases with two outs, Bierfeldt belted a towering fly ball to left field but it would fall short of going over the fence Breland Almadova snagged the ball for the final out.

“Brad threw a great game with his fastball and a lot of strikes and outside of the second inning he was as good as you could ask for from a rookie in his first start,” said Keefe. “We didn’t swing the bats and didn’t give ourselves too many opportunities to score runs and been that way for a few days and needs to change. Never got an opportunity to attack offensively. We need to make these changes ourselves and make things happen. We can’t look ahead and concentrate on tomorrow’s game.”

The Boulders have the opportunity to change that outlook as they return to Palisades Credit Union Park for a seven game home stand. Starting this weekend Trois-Rivieres comes into town for a three-game series followed by three more against the Ottawa Champions. The Aigles (20-18) are right on Rockland’s heels, a half-game behind in the standings while Ottawa (16-21) is on a hot streak having won seven out of ten games.

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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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