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Boulders Take Three of Four From Miners

After bouncing back with an impressive 10-3 victory last Saturday at New Jersey, the Rockland Boulders offense did not skip a beat scoring 29 runs en route to taking three out of four games against the Sussex County Miners. The Boulders continue to lead in the Can-Am League standings with a two and half game margin over the Jackals.

In the series opener at Skylands Stadium, Rockland began the scoring early in the 2nd when Miners centerfielder Brady Wilson misplayed a pop-up flare from Steve Nyisztor allowing two runs to score. Marcus Nidiffer crushed his Can-Am League leading 10th home run over the left field wall increasing the lead to 5-0. After Sussex County plated a run in the 3rd, Jared McDonald slugged a 2-run jack just over the right-field wall pushing the margin to 7-1.

“It was a really good win especially coming off a tough series with New Jersey,” said Marcus Nidiffer. “It was good to see some great at bats and runs scored especially with runners in scoring position. Walks are always better than strikeouts as we are taking it pitch by pitch.”

Despite walking six hitters, Stephen Harrold went 7 innings allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out four to even up his record at 5-5. Harrold was backed up outstanding defense that included a couple of stellar double plays turned by Junior Arrojo and Nyisztor plus Stephen Cardullo throwing out two runners attempting to stretch hits into doubles.

“It was a good one as Harrold did not have control the game because he didn’t have his great stuff early first two innings but settled down after getting a few runs behind him plus threw strikes and let them put it in play,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “We may not be tearing the baseball off its cover but we have been patient at the plate.”

The Boulders jumped out to a 6-1 lead in game two of the series due to Ryan Fisher bashing a 2-run homer off the right-field wall in the 2nd giving Rockland a 2-1 lead and adding a 2-run double in the 3rd into the right-center gap making it 6-1.

However, Sussex County responded in a flash the bottom half of the 3rd scoring three times to cut the deficit down to 6-4. Sergio Miranda RBI single to center made it 6-2 followed by an RBI groundout from Jon Dziomba.

Cory Morales reached on an infield single hit deep in the hole to shortstop Junior Arrojo allowing Dziomba to cross home.

The Miners continued to apply the pressure in the 4th as Kenny Bryant skied a fly ball to center that Jared McDonald was unable to catch up to allowing Johnny Bladel to score making it a one run game at 6-5. An RBI ground from Ryan Matthews brought Sergio Miranda in tying the game up at 6-6. An error by Fisher on a grounder hit by Frank Salerno proved to be kept the inning going. With Jayson Hernandez at the plate, Rockland starting pitcher Mike Dennhardt uncorked a wild pitch allowing Bryant to scamper home for the go-ahead run.

In the 5th, the Boulders would re-take the lead on a 2-run double by Charlie Law down the right-field line. Back came the Miners in the bottom half of the frame with Bryant up at the plate; Dennhardt unleashed another wild pitch allowing Brady Wilson to score tying the game up at 8-8. Bryant’s sac fly to center scored Bladel giving Sussex County the lead 9-8. Rockland did have one last opportunity to tie the game up in the ninth with runners on 1st and 2nd with one out but Miners closer Joe Testa struck out Marcus Nidiffer and Fisher to end the game. Dennhardt shouldered the loss tagged for nine runs with five of them earned, striking out five and walking seven in five innings of work.

“We were cruising along with a 6-1 lead but we can’t go out and hit and walk guys,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Defensively we had a couple of opportunities to make stops which we didn’t make as well. It’s a team loss as we wear it and enjoy the wins and suffer through the losses.”

Rockland found itself in an early 2-0 hole in game 3 of the series. Miners right fielder Ryan Matthews led off with the second doubling to left field as Stephen Cardullo was unable to make the catch and move dover to a third on a sac bunt from Devin Thaut. Frank Salerno bounced a grounder to Charlie Law at the first with Law deciding to fire the ball to the plate as Matthews attempted to score and was successful slapping the plate with his left hand. Salerno added an RBI sac fly in the fourth inning.

Stifled by Sussex County starting pitcher Shawn Sanford for the first five innings, the Boulders broke through in the sixth with Junior Arrojo ripping a single to right field. Cardullo followed lashing a double down the left field line scoring Arrojo all the way from first base. Joe Maloney legged out an infield single putting runners on the corner. Marcus Nidiffer lifted a fly ball to center as Cardullo tagged up motoring home and amazingly side stepped the tagged of Miners catcher Jayson Hernandez and step on the plate for the tying run. Ryan Fisher delivered a clutch two-out double down the first base line scoring Maloney giving Rockland a 3-2 lead.

“Sanford kind of glided through the first five innings but it’s something about our guys you don’t have to necessarily tell them but they need a kick in the ass,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “It started to spit rain because if we don’t score this game is over. We had a sense of urgency as a team and stepped on the gas. Alex was awesome throughout and throwing 92 miles per hour in the last inning.”

The Boulders extended their lead in the 7th plating three more runs to take a 6-2 lead. Steve Nyisztor led off with his first triple of the season. Giuseppe Papaccio ripped a double into the left center gap scoring Nyisztor. Junior Arrojo’s sac fly to center brought home Papaccio. Nidiffer drove in his second run of the game drilling a two-out run producing single into left. In the ninth, Nidiffer capped off the scoring smacking a two-run single into center.

After yielding two early runs, Alex Gouin settled into a groove retiring 12 hitters in a row at one point. Gouin tossed a complete game masterpiece allowing one two runs, one earned on four hits while striking out six and walking three to register his fourth win of the season.

The series finale shifted to Provident Bank Park where the Boulders found themselves behind early again as the Miners staked out a lead in the 2nd on an RBI single from Cory Morales. Rockland responded in the bottom half of the inning as Joe Maloney led off with a single to right field. Maloney advanced to second on an errant pick off attempt throw by Sussex County starting pitcher Jamie Walczak. Walczak proceeded to uncork a wild pitch and Maloney decided to go for third with the throw from Hernandez sailing past third basemen Sergio Miranda into left field allowing Maloney to trot home for the tying run.

The Miners would re-take the lead in the 4th inning on a wild scenario. With runners on 1st and 2nd and two outs, Brady Wilson flared a single to shallow left, Stephen Cardullo fired the ball to home plate as Devin Thaut attempted to score but Marcus Nidiffer was unable to hold on to the ball making the swipe tag as Thaut was ruled safe at the plate. The ball kicked back to the backstop but Salazar backing up the play threw to Nidiffer covering home to tag out Jayson Hernandez who was attempting to cross the plate for the final out of the inning.

It took until the 7th inning for Rockland to even up the game. With runners on 1st and 2nd and one out, Giuseppe Papaccio lifted a bloop single to center that kicked off Brady Wilson allowing Nidiffer to score. In the bottom 8th, Stephen Cardullo slammed a solo shot into the second of the left field bleachers giving the Boulders a 3-2 advantage.

“A dominant effort by Rich as he was able to keep the ball down and keep ahead of hitters” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “Rich heads up on the play at home as the ball caromed right back to him and threw to Marcus who got a good tag. It gave us a good deep breathe to say let’s get back it as were able to tag on runs in the later innings. Stephen is the energizer bunny for us and wears it on his sleeve.”

Richard Salazar pitched a solid game going 7 2/3 innings, yielding two runs on eight hits but did not factor in the decision. Chad Robinson who came into pitch in the top 8th and struck out Ryan Matthews to end the inning earned the win, his 3rd of the season. Luis Sanz pitched a spotless ninth to record his ninth save of the season.

“It’s always good to win as I just came into that situation trying to prevent from Salazar’s scoring and make sure I pick him up because he pitched a great game today,” said Chad Robinson. “Our bullpen has pretty good all year has we compete against each other but pick each other up.”

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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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