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(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

Road trips to Canada in the Canada in the Can-Am League are never easy, long bus trips, arriving at odd hours, little rest and once the road trip wraps up leaving on the same day as a series ends. Rockland Boulders manager Jamie Keefe knew with the first road trip so early into the season would be a challenge.

“A little flat on Friday and happening on first road trip in the beginning of the year,” said Keefe. “You’re not used to it, fueling the body the way you have to, getting more food in after Thursday’s game and a little more rest on the bus.”

In game one of a three-game set last Friday at Palisades Credit Union Park against the Quebec Capitales, the Boulders were limited to one run in five innings by Quebec starter Brett Lee who struck out six hitters as well. Second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum fueled the Capitales offense driving in two of the five runs.

Rockland third baseman Cody continued to swing a hot bat driving in both runs on the night. Trailing 4-2 in the eighth, the Boulders had runners on the corner with two outs but Quebec reliever Trevor Bayless struck out Jon Smith. In the ninth inning, Yurisbel Gracial bashes a solo shot into the Short Porch area in right field extending Quebec’s lead to 5-2. Boulders starting pitcher CJ Riefenhouser (1-1) went four innings yielding two runs on six hits while walking one and striking out one.

“We just couldn’t string a big hit together when we needed it and had guys in scoring position a bunch of times tonight,” said Keefe. “It’s one of those nights we came out flat and CJ threw the ball well early. He gave up some early, pitched out of jams and kept them at bay. They had an opportunity to break out the game themselves but we stay in it until the end. Two runs in four innings from the bullpen and you can’t ask for anymore than that. Cody is swinging a hot bat and going to be a big run producer for us and no doubt about it.”

Game two of the series Rockland found themselves in a 2-1 deficit in the 4th inning when Marcus Nidiffer crushed a 2-run moonshot not just over the left field concourse but out of the stadium. The Boulders did not wait around for the post-game fireworks show, instead holding one of their own launching five on the night to increase their league-leading total to 16 in 10 games

 Leading 5-2 in the 6th, Joe Maloney got into the long ball act slugging his 4th homer of the season in practically the same fashion. Maloney was done producing a highlight reel, in the eighth mashing a 3-run missile off the Mercedes-Benz sign in left field making it 9-2 Boulders. 

Making his second start of the season, Bo Budkevics tossed six innings allowing two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out two. The bullpen combination of Ethan Elias and Matt Kostalos shined once again in three innings surrendering just two hits.

“A really good night and guys saw the ball well,” Keefe said. “Bo was good as I have seen Bo and defense played really played well behind him. Anytime you get five home runs you’re going to come out on the winning side. Being able to have that firepower one through nine on a daily basis that can leave the yard when the situation presents itself and huge for us through the first 10 games.”

In the rubber match of the series, Rockland wasted no time jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning and a newcomer delivered in the clutch situation. Signed on Friday, Joe Bennie belted a bases loaded single. Jared McDonald drove in two runs on the day. Cody Regis drilled his 3rd homer of the season, second of the series in the 6th inning. 

However, the difference maker on this day was the pitching of Boulders starting pitcher Rich Salazar hurling seven brilliant innings giving up just one run on nine hits while striking out six and walking none earning his third win. Facing multiple jams, the defense stepped up turning a couple of double plays. Mayckol Guaipe shut the door in the ninth to record his 4th save of the save. Amazingly the game went at such a fast pace ending in 1:57

“Salazar threw a gem and pitched out of three big jams today. We turned four double plays as a team with great defense behind great pitching. Regis continues to swing a hot bat and our bullpen was stellar again.” 

Off to a franchise best 9-2 start, the Boulders welcome in the 2016 Can-Am League Champions Ottawa Champions on Memorial Day. The two-teams’ will play a doubleheader followed by an off day and then two consecutive morning games. In last year’s championship series, Rockland took the first two games only to see Ottawa storm back winning the final three games at Palisades Credit Union Park. 

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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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