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Boulders take 2 out of 3 against New Jersey

Having salvaged the final game of a four-game set at Quebec and ending a six game losing streak, the Rockland Boulders returned to Palisades Credit Union Park on Friday for a six game home stand. Coming into town first, the New Jersey Jackals.

During the three game series, the Boulders bats broke out the lumber tallying 22 runs while pounding out 42 hits. In the series opener, New Jersey took an early 1-0 lead in the third but Rockland responded putting up a six spot in the bottom half of the frame. JC Rodriguez got the ball rolling with a two-run bases loaded single followed by Conrad Gregor cranking a two run double off the right center wall.

After the Jackals trimmed the deficit down to 6-3 in the fourth, Rockland answered once again in the bottom half of the inning thanks to the long ball. Rodriguez socking a one out solo shot off the awning in right field and Cody Regis crushing a two-run moonshot on to the concourse in right field, Regis’s team leading 6th homer of the season.

However, New Jersey refused to wave the towel scoring five times in the last two innings off relievers Trevor Haley and Kyle Hansen. Eventually Hansen managed to close out the contest with a strikeout, notching his third save of the year. Despite yielding three runs on 10 hits in seven innings on the mound, starter Ryan Deemes earned his first victory of the season.

“Another good one and we needed that, kept the bullpen fresh for tomorrow and really had two guys down there tonight and used both of them,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Moving guys around the lineup last couple of games and turning it over on the top. JC (Rodriguez) is doing a heck of a job at the top of the lineup and seeing pitches and swinging the bat really well.”

“Always feels good when everything comes back together, guys are doing a great job of playing ball,” said Ryan Deemes. “It took a team effort tonight and I think that’s what makes us good.”

The only hiccup for the Rockland occurred on Saturday night where New Jersey blitzed starter Tommy Lawrence chalking up seven runs on seven hits in the 4 1/3 innings Lawrence tossed on the hill en route to an 8-4 victory.

In the rubber match of the series on Sunday, the Jackals staked to an early 2-0 advantage against Boulders starter Travis Hissong. Entering the game, Conor Bierfeldt had been struggling at the plate hitting .211 but Bierfeldt changed that statistic in a flash clubbing his first home run in a Rockland uniform in the bottom half of the frame on to the concourse in left field.

Rockland managed to take advantage of New Jersey starter Mat Latos inability to throw strikes and frustration with home plate umpire Tyler Thurmond’s strike zone in the third drawing a pair of walks and advancing to third on a wild pitch uncorked by Latos. The Boulders tied the game up by manufacturing a run on a RBI ground out by Kevin Krause.

Meanwhile, Hissong settled in after a rocky first inning, fanning six hitters through the fourth. In the fifth, Jared McDonald and JC Rodriguez reached base on infield singles, Bierfeldt strode to the plate and belted a single into right field scoring McDonald. With runners on the corner, Cody Regis drove in his team leading 14th RBI with a sac fly to right center. Latos emotions boiled over as Thurmond ejected him from the game. Marcus Nidiffer kept the inning going bashing a double into the right center gap as Bierfeldt scored his second run of the game.

Hissong departed the game after six innings having thrown 95 pitches while allowing two runs on six hits, two walks and six strikeouts. The Boulders offense kept the momentum going in the sixth with Rodriguez lacing a RBI single to center and Bierfeldt driving in his third run of the game smashing a double to left field increasing his batting average to .318.

“Great play from the offense today and run support,” said Hissong. “Conor (Bierfeldt) was lights out today and was having great at bats. The bullpen threw strikes and it was great to see Topa back on the mound.”

The Jackals did not fold the tent on this day bagging two runs off Justin Topa, making his first appearance since Opening Day on May 17 against Sussex County. Krause provided a key insurance run leading off the eighth swatting his second round tripper of the year into the left field grandstand.

That proved to be a pivotal moment because in the ninth with Kyle Hansen on to close it out, the Jackals made things interesting again notching two runs on a David Harris double into the left center gap. Hansen regrouped and coaxed Seth Spivey into a ground out to Mikael Mogues at first base ending the game.

Conor Bierfeldt on his 3-for-3 day with three RBI and two runs scored, “I felt good yesterday, I had a couple of good swings that the wind brought back and first day I felt super comfortable. Nice to take that and have some success and help the team win. I kind of shortened up my swing and it went over the fence. Guys just started hitting and scoring a couple of runs. Hitting is contagious when everyone does it.”

Jamie Keefe on the series win, “We won the series, that is most important and offense is starting to click and starting to move some guys around and some different looks and I like where we are at. Hell of a start from Hissong today and after the first calmed down. The bullpen has been counted on a lot of late and worked out today. Conor is going to hit and we look at his career and does nothing but hit and hell of an outfielder and got a good mind.”

After a day off on Monday, Rockland (7-10) returns to the diamond at Palisades Credit Union Park taking on the Trois-Rivières Aigles (9-7) in a three game series. The Aigles swept the Boulders a little over a week ago.

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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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