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Rockland Takes Three From Ottawa



The Rockland Boulders returned to Palisades Credit Union Park after splitting their 2016 regular season opening series against the Sussex County Miners and swept the Ottawa Champions, improving their record to 5-2.

In game one of the series, Marcus Nidiffer provided the bulk of the offense with five RBI including a three-run blast in the 8th that broke a 5-5 tie after Manager Jamie Keefe was ejected from the game. Nidiffer upped his RBI total to nine. Edgar Valle tossed two solid innings in relief while fanning five and Hector Nelo threw a spotless ninth to record his first save of the season. Jared McDonald extended his on base streak to 69 games.

“Jamie got us fired up with getting tossed there and I got a good pitch to hit,” said Marcus Nidiffer. “It’s always a slow adjustment for me always and I’m a July/August but with this lineup there are guys who are always on base and getting those opportunities makes the difference,”

“A huge night for Marcus and that is when a team leader really steps up,” said Jamie Keefe. “The guys kept on fighting and trying to get ourselves in a situation to put a run across. Edgar was awesome and really attacked their hitters and his breaking ball was keeping them off balance. Jared is a guy who goes out there and puts it out there every single day and you can’t ask much more than he does on a daily basis.”

Both teams had an early turnaround with game two of the series starting at 10:30 a.m. Ottawa jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning on a solo home run from Albert Cartwright over the Short Porch in right field. Rockland responded in the 4th with Mike Schwartz belting a lead off double, Schwartz’s 2nd hit of the game of the game. Champions starting pitcher plunked Marcus Nidiffer and Schwartz advanced to third on a fly out by Jared Schlehuber. With Alex DeBellis at the plate, Hamrick uncorked a wild pitch that ricocheted off the back stop allowing Schwartz to scamper home tying the game up.

The fifth inning featured a bizarre series of events with the Boulders loading up the bases on back-to-back walks from Ray Frias and Jared McDonald. Hamrick hit his second batter of the game in Junior Arrojo. Mike Schwartz stepped up to the plate, Hamrick’s wildness continued as he threw another wild pitch allowing Frias to score but Hamrick attempted to throw back to home plate the ball skipped by catcher Daniel Grauer to the Rockland first base dugout as McDonald and Arrojo raced home safely giving the Boulders a 4-1 advantage.

“Four runs with a ball not put in play is crazy,” said Keefe. “It goes to show you, you can do small things and we’re certainly not swinging on all cylinders but it’s okay.”

Sebastien Boucher crushed a solo shot in the 8th trimming the Boulders lead to 4-2. However, Jared Schlehuber answered back in the bottom half of the frame socking a solo blast just over the left yellow in left field. Ottawa made things interesting in the 9th on a RBI sac fly from Jason Coker. With runners on 1st and 2nd and two outs, Edgar Valle shut the door getting Matt Helms to ground out to Frias. Valle registered his first save of the season. Alex Gouin went five innings yielding one run on two hits while walking two and striking out four to notch the victory.

“The game plan today was to execute pitches and not try to do too much, keep the ball down and use a lot of fastballs,” said Gouin. “In the past I said, I trust Marcus(Nidiffer) and he does a great job behind the plate. You know the offense is going to pick you up early in the game or late. Early in the year you start seeing how certain roles are unfolding and he(Edgar Valle) is showing how big of guy he is going to be out of the pen this year for us and being able to bounce back on a second day is good.”

Markus Solbach was the story in the final game of the series hurling eight strong innings allowing one run on six hits while whiffing 8 hitters for the second consecutive start. Meanwhile, the Boulders scored their fifth run off a wild in pitch in two games in the 3rd inning. A sac fly from Junior Arrojo scored Jared McDonald making it 2-0.

“It was a fun night out of the gate and nice if your offense scores some runs for you because you can pitch with the lead,” said Markus Solbach. “First time in pro ball I struck out the side. Bouncing back after giving up a run and my cutter felt really good today.”

The Champions sliced the deficit to 2-1 in the 4th on a RBI single from Daniel Grauer. With runners on the 2nd and 3rd and two outs, Solbach would escape the jam on a terrific off balance throw from Junior Arrojo on a grounder from Brian Erie. In the fifth inning, Solbach reared back and struck out the side. Brian Ragira provided some breathing room in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI single. Riley Palmer added an insurance run in the 8th. Hector Nelo came in to pitch the ninth and recorded his second save of the season.

“Markus is a guy we’re going to look to and we needed that start from him and give the bullpen a rest,” said Keefe. “Anyway we can get runs at this point, we’re hitting the ball hard and we’re not getting a lot of results at this point and it’s okay.”

“No matter where you put him (Brian Ragira) in the lineup he is going to produce. In that situation Riley needed that also getting him in the outfield and seeing what he does.”

“I was fortunate to have other guys in front of me and went up there trying to stick to my approach, get a ball to hit and put some good wood on it,” said agira. “A mix of veterans and new guys makes it easy fitting in and that much easier.”

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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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