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Boulders swipe three of four against Quebec

After getting swept by the first place Sussex Miners, dropping five out of six and into 5th place in the Can-Am League standings, the Rockland Boulders returned to Palisades Credit Union Park for an eight game home stand. Looking to reverse course and get back on track,  Justin Brantley took the mound in the series opener against the Quebec Capitales.

Having won his first three starts in a Rockland uniform, Brantley did not disappoint tossing a team record 128 pitches in 7 1/3 innings on the hill yielding just one run on nine hits while walking three and striking out seven. With the offense struggling in the series at Sussex County, the Boulders busted out the lumber tallying seven runs on 10 hits. Conor Bierfeldt, Marcus Nidiffer and Mike Montvile each drove in two runs apiece. Montville clubbed his 13th home run of the season. Tommy Lawrence worked the final 1 2/3 innings for his first save of the year.

Despite Travis Hissong struggling on the mound in the second game of the series walking five in five innings on the mound, Rockland’s offense picked up the slack as six players had an RBI with Cody Regis and Kevin Krause leading the way with two runs apiece. Marcus Nidiffer ahd the game winning hit blasting an RBI double in the seventh where Rockland scored three times.

Utilizing the friendly dimensions at home, the Boulders hit two home runs on the night as JC Rodriguez and Krause went deep. The bullpen trio of Matt Kostalos held the Capitales in check the final three innings, surrendering four hits and whiffing four. Nick Kennedy (5-4) recorded his fifth win of the season.

“Big key hits and good night for everyone around,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Guys knew we had to head straight up the hill and been a tough seven or eight days. Brantley’s performance yesterday was a statement and Tommy coming in the way he did was huge for us. We need him and knew what we can do and getting three strikeouts.”

Nidiffer on his game winning double in the seventh, “It felt good and everyone has been battling. When everyone has that positive mode it’s fun. Hopefully we get on a roll and keep it going. Making opposing pitchers’ think about every pitch and you can’t take anyone for granted in this lineup one through nine. We need to show other teams’ we’re here and ready to play.”

However, the only damper coming out of the series a tough 3-2 10 innings defeat on Saturday night. Compounding the fact losing Aaron Wilson to a season ending torn patella tendon after making a spectacular catch.

“The last couple of years he has been the best utility player you could ask for,” Keefe said. “He had a hot streak last year where he was tearing the cover off the ball and hate to see it happen to Aaron. What he brings to the clubhouse on a daily basis and whether he is in or out of the lineup is the same person. When he is out there gives you everything he’s got. Made a hell of a catch and hoping for the best recovery and he still wants to be here.”

Roughed up for seven runs the last time he faced Quebec, Garrett Johnson wiped that memory out his head, dominating in five innings striking out nine hitters. Down 1-0 in the third, newcomer Matt Dacey hailing from Wyckoff, New Jerse, playing in his first Can-Am League game and first at bat made it a memorable debut crushing a two run homer into the Budweiser Short Porch area in right field. Conor Bierfeldt got into the act following Dacey mashing a solo missile off the railing off the left field grandstand.

Dacey on his home run and first game in a Boulders uniform, “It felt great and been awhile since I was on the field and couldn’t have asked for a better start. So lucky to have this opportunity and so close to home and having another place to play. Hitting a home run in your first at bat on a new team, it’s a great way to break the ice. I had family here today, some cousins and played on this field when I was in high school. Being able to drive 30 minutes from home and play baseball is an amazing field.”

After an hour and fifteen-minute delay, the Boulders went to their bread and butter that is the lone ball as Marcus Nidiffer slugged his 16th of the season. Bierfeldt cranked his second homer of the season in the eighth. The Capitales did not fold scoring twice off Kyle Hansen as James McOwen clubbed a two-run single. Hansen managed to recover striking out TJ White and inducing Maxx Tissenbaum into a pop up to end the game. Hansen registered his 10th save of the year while Garrett Johnson (4-2) earned his fourth win.

“A good series and four back of Quebec now,” said Keefe. “We get back into it and win a series. Garrett was nasty and tough to hit. Matt give us a left handed pop off the bench and in his first at bat, down 0-2 and put us back on top and we didn’t look back after that. They tried to beat Conor with a fastball in this ball park and going to be a lot of trouble. Combined for almost 900 feet with two home runs and a lot of fun to watch.”

Next up for Rockland is a three game set against the red hot Sussex County Miners sporting a 42-19 record and 10 games up on the Boulders in the standings. The Miners are one stolen base shy of the league record of 163 bases that Sussex County set in 2017.

“You have to keep them a bunch of them off the bases and if you do will have success and if not are going to struggle and not much you can do,” Keefe said. “They really can run, aggressive and keep doing it. If we swing the bats we have been doing of late we will have success.”

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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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