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(Photo by Sunil Sunder Raj)

(Photo by Sunil Sunder Raj)

Fresh off a series sweep of the Dominican Republic at Palisades Credit Union Park, the Rockland Boulders traveled to Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair for a three-game set against the New Jersey Jackals. Two weeks ago the teams’ split a four-game series. However, Mother Nature did not cooperate as the first game was rained out forcing both teams’ to play a twin bill.

In game 1 of the doubleheader, Rockland jumped out an early advantage scoring three times off New Jersey starter Lee Sosa in the first inning. The big blow coming off the bat of catcher Marcus Nidffer’s two run double. Cody Regis drove in his second run of the game in the 2nd with a two-out single.

Making his first star of the season, Chris Carmain sparkled on the mound tossing five innings allowing two runs that came off the bat of Taylor Brennan two-run homer in the second inning. Regis continued to swing the hot bat smacking a double into the left center gap in the fourth extending the lead to 5-2. An RBI groundout by Mike Fransoso would make it 6-2 in the 7th.

Reliever Ethan Elias took over the pitching duties in the bottom half of the frame but immediately ran into trouble plunking the first three hitters. Closer Mayckol Guaipe entered the game and proceeded to walk Conrad Gregor forcing in a run. A sac fly by Brian Burgamy trimmed the margin to 6-4. Next stepped up Brian Joynt who made it a brand new game rapping a two-run double into the right center gap and sending the game into extra innings.

Both teams’ had golden opportunities to emerge victorious in extras with Rockland getting the first shot in the Top 9th with runners at 1st and 2nd Fransoso laced a liner to left field, attempting to score from second Dylan Tice ended up getting thrown out at home by left fielder Ryan Retz. In the bottom half, New Jersey had runners on corner with two outs, Matt Kostalos fanned Brennan to end the inning.

Under Can-Am League tiebreaker rules starting in the 11th, Alex Herceg started out at second base, Jared McDonald followed with a bloop single and Tice walked loading up the bases. Carrying the offensive torch for the day, Cody Regis (3 for 5, 4 RBI) knocked home the game-winning run with a sac fly to center. Not to be undone Nidiffer (4 for 5, 3 RBI) drove in his third run of the game ripping a single to right scoring Tice (2 for 4, 3 runs scored) increasing the lead to 8-6 and proved to be a key insurance run.

The Jackals refused to throw in the towel as Johnny Bladel began at second in the bottom half of the frame, advanced to third on ground out and came into score on a RBI ground out by Gregor. Yielding a single to Burgamy, Alex Farina ended almost a four-hour marathon striking out Yariel Vargas and earning his second win of the year.

“Yankees-Red Sox, it’s just the way going to be, these two teams aren’t going to give into each other, never have and certainly now,” Manager Jamie Keefe said. “Going to be a battle through and we went out and took game one that was the most important part. They came back and hats off to them but our guys battled and still pulled it out. He (Cody Regis) is really starting to see it and working on a few different things. Teams’ are going to get you at some point and they did today.”

“The guys in front of me did a really good and setting the table and just getting the opportunity to drive them in,” Regis said. “I wouldn’t have had the game if it were not for them. I’m seeing the ball well, getting good pitches to hit and hitting them when I get them. A testament to the guys in front of me and top of the lineup getting on base.”

“We were really hurting and missing him (Marcus Nidiffer) last few games and having him back you could see the immediate impact he has in the lineup and what he brings to the team in the mentality and energy and our captain. There are great guys we have in the clubhouse and that is a good team we are playing and didn’t hang our hats and pout and we just got back out there and attacked them and grinded it out. It took a  few more innings that we would have liked to but got the job done.”

Game two of the twin bill featured a pitchers’ duel between Boulders starter Bo Budkevics and Jackals starter Andres Caceras through the first three innings. Rockland right fielder Mike Montville broke the deadlock in the fourth, crushing a three-run shot over the left-field fence, Montville’s 6th of the season. Budkevics (2-1) turned in a masterful performance hurling six innings, yielding just one run that was unearned on three hits while walking two and whiffing nine. Faced with a bases loaded situation in the fifth, Budkevics wiggled out of the jam fanning Brian Burgamy. Jon Velasquez worked a perfect 7th to register his first save.

“That is a dominant performance and he (Bo Budkevics) and he has always thrown the ball well here,” Keefe said. “His breaking ball was there tonight and fastball jumping out of his hand. Comforting with Marcus (Nidiffer) back there and got a good thing going.”

In the series finale, Joe Maloney put Rockland on the board in the first inning, driving his 38th run in of the season on a double to center field scoring Dylan Tice from second. The lead would not stand up for long as New Jersey exploded for five runs off Boulders starter Justin Topa in the second inning.

Back came Rockland in the following inning, taking advantaged of fielding error by New Jersey shortstop Rylan Sandoval on a grounder hit by Cody Regis allowing Jared McDonald to score from second. Maloney would drive in his second run of the game on a fielder’s choice.

In the fourth, back-to-back singles by Alex Herceg and McDonald with two outs led to Tice (2 for 3, 4 runs scored) hammering his 2nd double of the game fourth of the series into the right center gap nodding the contest up at 5-5.

Regis kept the inning going drawing a walk and with runners on first and second, Maloney hit a grounder to Taylor Brennan at third and throw sailed over the head of Brian Burgamy at first allowing Tice to score from first as the Boulders took their first lead of the game. Capitalizing on shoddy defense by the Jackals, Fransoso smoked a grounder that skipped by Ryan Retz allowing Tice to plate his 4th run of the game and make it 7-5 in the 6th.

Topa (6-0) lasted five innings surrendering three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out three. The bullpen trio of Ethan Elias, Jon Velasquez and Mayckol Guaipe preserved the lead with 4 shutout innings striking out five and not yielding a hit. Guaipe recorded his 9th save of the season.

“A good sweep and baseball game, we get out to a lead and they came back with a 5 spot and made a couple of mistakes and able to capitalize,” said Keefe. “Getting those two runs the next inning by Dylan Tice and just a lot of fight in these guys right now and what we want to do.”

“You have to look at what’s going on with 1 through 9 right now and these last 6 or 7 days a different guy has been clutch for us every night and everybody is contributing. We didn’t have a bunch of opportunities to score a lot of runs but just had to create and we hit a gap here and there and difference in the ball game.”

“This line up is so deep, when we get down there is no panic and someone is going to have a day and go off for 3 or 4 hits and cash in on RBIs,” Dylan Tice said.

Riding a six game-winning streak, Rockland (25-8) returns to Palisades Credit Union for a seven-game home stand and leading the Quebec Capitales by three and half games in the Can-Am League standings. First up a four-game set with the Ottawa Champions. So far this season the Boulders have take six out of seven games against Ottawa.

“A huge series, we’re playing well right now and trying to create separation,” said Keefe. “Quebec is playing good baseball and New Jersey. We’re a third of the way through the season and keep doing what we’re doing.”

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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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