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Cuban National Team Too Much For Rockland Boulders

After dropping their last two series against Shikoku Island and New Jersey Jackals, the Rockland Boulders were looking to rebound in a historic three-game showdown at Palisades Credit Union Park against the Cuban National Team but Cuba had different plans sweeping the Boulders. Rockland’s record fell to 20-16 and three and half games behind the Quebec Capitales in the Can-Am League standings. The Boulders have dropped five in a row and seven out of their last eight games.

“Why are we 4-6 now and before 6-4 is the pitching was there and just snuck a few across or bats woke up and pitching went down,” Manager Jamie Keefe said. “It’s up and down all year and why we play 100. We need to get away and everyone’s frustrated and antsy. The toughest part is being home and in front of your home crowd.”

Before the start of game one, former New York Yankees starter, four-time World Series Champion and American League Championship Series M.V.P. “El Duque” Orlando Hernández threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, Junior Arrojo gave the 4,501 fans to cheer about crushing his 4th home run of the season, a titanic blast over the concourse in left field. Meanwhile Boulders Richard Salazar tossed his second quality start going seven innings yielding one run on five hits while striking out six and walking three but would not factor in the decision.

In the 8th inning, Cuba would take the lead off Rockland relief pitcher Pat Butler on an RBI single from Yasiel Santoya who would take second on the play after Rockland right fielder Ed Charlton misplayed the ball. Jefferson Delagdo kept the inning alive hammering a single to right bringing in Santoya making it 3-1. Cuba was not finished tacking on three more runs in the ninth to seal the victory.

“We know they are going to play good baseball and difference is they play good defense and we didn’t,” Keefe said. “The last couple of days we haven’t been clicking on all cylinders.”

There was plenty of excitement in the ballpark as a crowd of 5,321 witnessed high-wire aerialist Nik Wallenda successfully walk a 500 foot tightrope across the field and set a Guinness World Record for throwing the first-pitch from 125 feet above to Jamie Keefe.

The Boulders broke out the lumber early scoring six times in the first three innings. Down 1-0 in the second, Mike Fransoso ripped a RBI single back up the middle into center scoring Jared Schlehuber. Alex DeBellis put Rockland up with an RBI fielder’s choice. Junior Arrojo followed drilling a run producing single to left. Marcus Nidiffer capped the scoring drawing a bases loaded walk. In the fourth, Mike Montville golfed a two-run blast into the left field bleachers making it 6-2.

However, Cuba began to chip away at the lead off Boulders starter Alex Gouin scoring twice in the fifth. In the sixth, an RBI single from Juan C. Torriente made it a 6-5 game. The big blow in the contest would come off the bat of Yorbi Borrato clubbing a two-run go ahead missile off the bottom of the left field foul putting Cuba up for good. Cuban relief pitcher Lazaro Blanco stymied the Rockland offense over the span of six innings allowing no hits while fanning nine.

“The bottom line is they don’t go away and give in and do the small things,” said Keefe. “They have success because all the training they put in and comes into effect like a game tonight. That’s as good as a performance I have seen against us all year. It’s been a long time since we have lost three series in Rockland. We’re not playing good baseball right now and we know it and making pitches where we need to make them and we’re not getting big hits.”

In the rubber match of the series, Rockland trailed for a third straight game but Marcus Nidiffer provided a spark leading off the fourth mashing a triple off the left center wall. With Jared Schlehuber at the plate, Vladimir Banos uncorked a wild pitch allowing Nidiffer to score.

Boulders starter Markus Solbach was cruising along until the fifth when Julio Martinez changed that with one swing of the bat belting a three-run homer into the Short Porch area in right field. Just as they did the night before, Rockland’s bats went ice cold unable to get a hit after the fourth inning.

“The home run took the air out of us and it’s frustrating,” Keefe said. “We need to make some changes and make them now. I don’t think in a couple of years we have lost four in a row and five today. It’s what it is and can’t do anything about it and have to turn the page and move on.”

“We can’t run anything together right now. It’s not like we have left runners everywhere because we have not had the opportunity to. The day off will be huge to get away and take a deep breathe.”

The Rockland Boulders hit the road for a three-game series at the Sussex County Miners starting on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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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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