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Justin Brantley Shines Brightly in Boulders Win

Making his first start in a Rockland Boulders (19-15) uniform against the Salina Stockade (3-10) at Palisades Credit Union Park on Friday night, Justin Brantley felt comfortable having pitched in the stadium as member of the New Jersey Jackals back in 2016. With numerous injuries to the Boulders pitching staff, manager Jamie Keefe handed the baseball off to Brantley after throwing occasionally in the past couple of weeks.

From the get go, Brantley looked sharp, striking out the first two batters he faced in the first inning. For the second straight game, Kevin Krause played the role of hero, driving in the game-winning run belting an RBI triple down right field. Rockland steadily tacked on from there, despite stranding 14 runners on base in the contest.

In the third inning, Cody Regis drilled a liner to left field with runners on first and second, when Stockade left fielder Scott Stetson misplayed the ball, which allowed JC Rodriguez and Conor Bierfeldt to score. Leading off the fourth, Mike Montville provided some buzz, smashing his fifth home run of the season just barely over the Budweiser Short Porch wall in right field.

Meanwhile, Brantley was in cruise control, retiring seven at one point. In what ended up being his final inning of the night in the sixth, Brantley went out on a high note, fanning two more batters, increasing his total to eight in the game ,while scattering three hits and walking two on 98 pitches.

“It was good and I will take the result, pitching with the lead absolutely helps you go out and attack the hitters,” said Brantley. “Scoring four innings in a row helps and couldn’t have asked for anymore. I have been here for a day and already feel like for a whole season. Jason [Agresti] was unbelievable, he sat back and called the pitches.”

However, Salina refused to go away quietly with William Salas spoiling Brantley’s shutout bid, crushing a solo homer into left field bleachers leading off the eighth off Rockland relief pitcher Andy Lalonde. In the ninth inning, Matt Kostlos came on to close it out, but the Stockade pulled to 5-3 on two-run double down the left field line from Dominic Zaher.

With runners on first and second with two outs, Keefe called upon closer Kyle Hansen. Facing a lefty in Daniel Williams, Salina came very close to tying the game up, as Williams hit a fly ball down the left field line that barely went foul. Hansen managed to regroup and whiff Williams to seal the victory and register his sixth save of the year.

“A good start, amazing when you throw strike one and [Brantley’s] fastball was there all night,” Keefe said. “It was good for him to get out there and we got to see a lot. He has to work on his breaking ball but when you get and stay ahead, makes a big difference.”

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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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