Coming off a two-day rest, the Rockland Boulders returned to the diamond against the Sussex County Miners at Palisades Credit Union Park. Heading into the mini two game series against the Miners, Rockland had swept the first six games.
“We had some success against them this year and keep it rolling,” Manager Jamie Keefe said. “Something you have with a team you are comfortable against and feel like you’re in the game no matter what the score is.”
In the first game, the Boulders found themselves in a familiar spot, trailing in a game 2-0 after the first inning. However, catcher Alex Herceg wasted no time putting Rockland back on top, crushing a three-home run in the following inning. The runs kept coming as Joe Maloney drove in his 29th run of the season on a RBI ground out in the 5th. For a second consecutive game Mike Montville hit one out of the park.
“Alex has been catching his butt off night in and out and been outstanding defensively,” Keefe said. “Last couple of games really put the ball in play and had some success. To see him chop on one today and get us up today and just cruised.”
Starter Jason Byers struggled in 4 1/3 innings on the mound yielding two runs on five hits while walking five and striking out two. The bullpen trip of Chris Carmain, Alex Farina and Ethan Elias came to the rescue hurling 4 2/3 innings allowing just one run on one hit. Carmain earned his first win of the season.
“25 games in we have been upset at the bullpen once,” Keefe said. “They didn’t throw as many strikes in the last game but able to get three guys to come out of the bullpen and have some success and shut them down. Hats off to the guys and were well-rested. Lots of energy in the ball park with youngsters showing up from school and guys were amped up and ready to go. A nice feeling going back into the dugout today.”
“Michael (Montville) was a slow starter last year and now has settled in and figured out what he is gong to get to hit. We discussed about him stopping thinking about it and just see and hit it and makes a big difference for him.”
Going for the sweep in the series and trying to make it a perfect 7 for 7 in the season series, it was déjà vu all over again for Rockland as the Miners tagged starter Bo Budkevics for three runs in the first inning.
Jared McDonald would get the Boulders on the board in the fourth reaching base on an error committed by second baseman Rubi Silva with runners on the corner and two outs that would bring in Joe Bennie.
Sussex County put the game out of reach in the 5th courtesy of a monstrous three run moon shot over the left field concourse and railing by Juan Duran. The Boulders responded in the bottom half of the frame thanks to a two-run double by Jon Smith trimming the deficit to 8-4. Once again the Miners offense found the seats for a third time on the night as Jay Austin slugged a two-out laser into the Short Porch area in right field making it 9-4 in the sixth.
In four innings on the hill, Budkevics (1-1) surrendered seven seven runs on eight hits while walking three. The 3,4,5 and six hitters for the Miners did the majority of the damage with 11 hits and eight RBI while two through four hitters scored seven runs.
“At the end of the day we lost one to Sussex and you can’t give up that many runs in the first inning and can’t play behind every night,” Keefe said. “We still put up six tonight and we had runners on base with 2-0 or 3-1 counts and just didn’t take care of business tonight. The plus today is out lead-off hitter (Jared McDonald) is starting to figure it out and is going to be huge for us.”
“We have to keep the run total down early in the game and if we do are much better off. We’re getting guys on base and into hitter counts. We’re not going to pound out 15 hits a night and have to make adjustments and pitching early.”
Rockland (19-8) turns it attention to International Series play with a three-game set against the Dominican Republic. The Can-Am League standings are tightening up as the Boulders lead Quebec by just one game and three games up over New Jersey.
“We’re excited and don’t know anything about them and they haven’t played well so far but everyone said about the teams’ last year,” said Keefe. “Cuba and Japan didn’t play well until they showed up here and we didn’t win a game. We have to spin our caps and be ready tomorrow.”