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Boulders Take Three of Four Against Ottawa

Having swept the Sussex County Miners to kick off an 11-game home stand at Palisades Credit Union Park and extend their winning streak to four games, the Rockland Boulders looked to continue their winning ways against the Ottawa Champions in a four-game set.

The Boulders certainly did that by  sweeping a doubleheader to kick off the series on Tuesday afternoon. Bolstered by strong pitching performances from JD Busfield (6-1) who won his third straight, and Landon Holifield (1-0) making his first start of the season out of the bullpen, tossing four shutout innings. Second baseman Ryne Birk went 4-for-5, driving in four runs in the first game and scoring two runs. Shortstop Senoo Katusya went 4-for-6 with three runs scored.

A quick turnaround the next day with an 11:00 a.m. ET start, Rockland trailed the Champions 3-0 after four innings of play. John Brontsema cut the deficit to one run with a two-run double in the sixth. Loading up the bases in the eighth, Blake Grant-Parks was hit by a pitch forcing the tying run to come across home plate in Ryne Birk.

The bullpen trio of Alex Fishbery, Nick Kennedy and Robbie Gordon held Ottawa’s offense in check, hurling four shutout innings, yielding two hits, walking none and striking out five. After Gordon retired the side of the order in the top of the ninth, Grant Heyman was plunked on the knee in the bottom half of the frame, then moved over to second base on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Katsuya delievered a signature moment drilling a single to centerfield bringing in Heyman to score for the walk-off victory as the Boulders won their seventh straight and reached the .500 mark at 30-30.

Despite dropping the series finale and falling below .500 on Thursday night, Rockland is in fourth place in the Can-Am League standings and 8.5 games behind the Miners. Katsuya finished up 6-for-14, extending his hitting streak to seven games and increasing batting average to .340. Birk ended up 5-for-10 with four RBI’s and four runs scored.

“We said getting back to the Ottawa series at their ball park we had to start playing better and then came back and have had an amazing home stand so far,” manager Kevin Baez said of the series. “I hate to see the winning streak fall but proud of the guys and way they are going about their business. My message to them was let’s start a new one today.

“Senoo has been outstanding for us, playing solid defense, some timely hitting and pesky at-bats. He puts the ball in play and gets hits. I see other guys and pitchers’ on teams’ shaking their heads. He brings freshness to the team, a good teammate that guys like and so does he, so it’s been a good fit for us.

“With the bullpen it goes unseen by fans and not from management, myself and coaching staff. They held it down and what they needed to do. The way we chipped away and credit to them for keeping us in the game and giving us an offensive chance in the game.

“Busfield with an outstanding outing, Holifield in a spot start and it starts there. Early in the year, the pitching was not doing too well and showed in the loss column. Guys are keeping us in the game, Birk was out for a couple of a days and came back to the lineup and playing really well.”

Next up for the Boulders is a three game series against the Quebec Capitales (24-36) starting on Friday night with first pitch set for 7:00 p.m. ET.

“Hopefully we can keep it up, Quebec has a whole different team so we have to look at their roster and make adjustments, Baez said. It starts [Friday] with [Reinaldo] Lopez giving us a good outing and go from there and try to make adjustments.

“We said before the 11-game home stand, we enjoy playing at home and our fans are great. Lots of energy with the kids, they are screaming and we feed into that. In August, we are playing a lot of weekend series at home and during the week on the road. They call it the dog days of the summer, trying to keep these guys fresh and hungry and with all this heat trying to do your best moving forward.”

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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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