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Before the Rockland Boulders ventured up to Trois-Rivieres, Canada to take on the Aigles, manager Jamie Keefe stated taking the first game of the series would be crucial and if that goal was achieved grabbing game 2 would be even better to take the series. Despite having their seven game unbeaten streak snapped in the rubber match, Rockland achieved the goal of taking the series.

“A tough one to bite off but went up there and took two out of three and that’s the goal on every road trip,” said Jamie Keefe. “To go into someone’s ballpark and win two out of three, there is no quit in these guys, playing well together and have each other’s back. We’re trying to build something that can last a season and get these guys on the same page together. One through nine is contributing on a daily basis.”

In game one of the series, Mike Fransoso got his name into the home run column with a 2-run shot to right field in the first inning. Trois-Rivieres would respond in the fourth inning with runners on first and second, a sharp ground ball hit by Trevor Gretzky to Dylan Tice who would scoop up the ball and toss it past Joe Maloney at first allowing two runs to score on the play. 

Two innings later Joe Maloney would give the Boulders the lead for good smashing his third home run season over the right field wall. Not going away quietly, the Aigles had runners on the corner with two outs in the eighth, Kyle LaFrenz smacked a sharp grounder to Tice who atone for his earlier throwing error by making a spectacular diving play and tossing to Mike Fransoso at second for the inning ending force out.

Making his second start of the season, Richard Salazar weaved in and out of jams grinding through six innings allowing two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out seven. The bullpen combination of Alex Farina, Matt Kostalos and Mayckol Guaipe shut the door down surrendering three hits and fanning two. Guaipe retired the side in order in the ninth to record his second save of the year.

“Salazar had to dig deep for this one and it was a pitcher’s duel as usual with Salazar and Rusch. Another gritty team win.”

Trailing 2-0 in the third inning of game two of the series, Marcus Nidiffer added his name to the home run column slugging a three-run blast over the right field. Rookie Alex Herceg would add a key insurance run in the sixth belting a single to center bringing in Mike Montville who led off the inning with a double.

However, the Aigles answered back in the bottom half of the frame on a RBI single by Alexander Elias. Taking over for starter Justin Topa, Ethan Elias gave up a single to Zach Mathieu and walk to Trevor Gretzky loading up the bases. Elias escaped the jam thanks to sensation running catch off a fly ball hit by Cody Kuzniczci in foul territory by the right field fence. 

Trois-Rivieres threatened again in the seventh with runners on second and third and two out, Elias escaped further damage getting Javier Herrera to fly out to left field. Coming into the game in the eighth, Matt Kostalos faced a situation with runners on first and second, reared back and struck out Kuzniczci to end the frame. Mayckol Guaipe attempting to nail down his third save of the season earned it by inducing Daniel Mateo into a 4-6-3 double play. Making his first start of the season, Justin Topa battled for 5 2/3 innings charged with three on three hits while walking two and striking out two.

“Good for Marcus as he has not had too many pitches to hit in the beginning of the season and nice to see him bust out tonight with a big 3-run home run,” Keefe said. “A huge RBI by Alex Herceg and he called a great game behind the plate and blocked the ball really well and guys from moving up a base.” 

“Justin threw the ball well enough to get the W and bullpen came up and cleaned it up. A couple of defensive plays were huge. Kostalos comes in with zero fear and him going out there and dominating and wanting to get that first pitch strike and sets up everything else in the count and lights out so far.”

“Mayckol has been able to go out and get ahead and throw that slider. He has really bought into working with Salazar and spent time working in off-season and ability to get to the major leagues and now learning able to pitch. Salazar has 17 years of experience and taught him to get ahead and put hitters away. Learning night in and out on how to take care of himself and arm.”

In the final game of the 3-game set, the Boulders followed a familiar theme jumping out to 3-0 advantage in the first inning. The lead would not last for long as the Aigles roared back three of their own in the bottom half off Rockland starter Markus Solbach.

In the third, Mike Fransoso’s RBI single to left field would bring in Jared McDonald. The back and forth affair would continue as the Aigles plated two runs in the bottom half of the frame. Trois-Rivieres start Chris Murphy shut the Boulders down by retiring the next 10 in a row.

With two outs in the sixth, Cody Regis broke the string clubbing a double into left center gap as Joe Maloney motored all the way from first base making it 6-5. Mike Montville followed roping a single to center bringing in Regis. 

Solbach settled into a groove retiring seven in a row before giving way to Jason Byers. Solbach’s final line would be five innings, surrendering five runs on six hits, walking two and striking out five. Retiring the first two hitters in the seventh, Byers yielded back-to-back singles to Brendan Webb and Daniel Mateo. Ethan Elias took over the pitching duties but the wheels fell off as Javier Herrera lined a single to center scoring Webb.

Alexander Ayala followed belting a 2-run double to the left field wall and Trevor Gretzky gave the Aigles a three run lead with a sacrifice fly to right field. The Boulders refused to throw in the towel, in the eighth with runners on the corner and two outs Jon Smith flied out to right field. In the ninth, runners on first and second Nick Sarianides fanned Mike Fransoso and Marcus Nidiffer to end the game. 

“You’re going to run into guys like Murphy and he shut us down. Markus threw the ball really well and just ran into a few broken bats here and there and just one of those days,” said Keefe. “He threw the ball better in the third, fourth and fifth.

The Boulders return to Palisades Credit Union Park on Friday where they will play seven games in seven days. First up a three-game series against the Quebec Capitales. Last season Rockland capped off a dramatic comeback in the first round of the Can-Am League Playoffs defeating Quebec in Game 5 3-2. 

“The next two weeks are huge for us and we’re playing some good baseball right now and taking caring of business which we have done and keep rolling again and try to win every game in our house,” said Keefe. “We want to win every series we can and the goal. Some nights not going to win all, a good start to the season and start it back up tonight.”

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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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