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Sunil Sunder Raj

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Back-to-Back walk-offs lift Boulders to series win against Quebec

Having won the first six games of an 11-game home stand at Palisades Credit Union Park, the Rockland Boulders hit a speed bump, dropping the next two games including the series opener against the Quebec Capitales. Instead of a prolonged losing streak ensuing, the Boulders provided the home fans with some truly memorable moments to cap the weekend.

Trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning on Saturday night, the red hot Senoo Katsuya tied up the game with a single that brought in Grant Heyman. In the bottom half of the 10th inning, Matt Oberste clobbered a towering drive to deep center field that David Salgueiro reeled in. With Ryne Birk tagging up at second, manager Kevin Baez gave Birk the green light to round third and that decision paid off as Birk easily crossed home plate setting off an exuberant celebration along the first base line.

“We have been in so many close games it was nice to come back in extras,” said Ryne Birk. “It’s easier to score one run rather than two or three. Oberste hammered that ball to center and though it was getting over his head to be honest. As I tagged up and was running waiting for (Kevin) Baez to stop me but gave me the sign and kept going and luckily worked out for us. The crowds have been awesome, almost sold out and packed. At home you get into your own routine and don’t have to travel anywhere and being in your own locker room and have taken advantage of it.”

In the series finale on Sunday, Rockland trailed 3-0 after three innings but Grant Heyman changed that outlook with one swing blasting a three-run shot into the Short Porch area in right field in the fourth. However, the Capitales regained the lead the very next inning and tacked on a run in the eighth. Down to their last out in the ninth, Heyman came through in the clutch swatting a two-run double off the left center field wall. Quebec had runners on second and third with two outs in the 10th, closer Robbie Gordon worked out of the jam retiring Brandon Fischer on a ground out. In the bottom half of the frame, Katsuya dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt that moved Chase Harris over to third base. Stepping up to the plate, Ryne Birk delivered the third walk-off victory of the week belting a single into right center field that brought Harris across home plate setting off another jubilant celebration.

“As a team our confidence level is real high,” Birk said. “We lost a couple of tough ones but real nice winning those last two in the fashion we did. Swinging and pitching it real well and have a little good streak right now. We had seen the standings and didn’t like where we were before this home stand so we knew we had to string some wins together especially at home and we did.”

Birk finished the series 5 for 15 with a double, triple and two runs driven in. Katsuya ended up 7 for 11 with a run and two RBI while extending his hitting streak to 10 gamed where he us 16 for 39 with two doubles, triple, eight runs scored and increasing his batting average to .375. Robbie Gordon registered both wins improving his record to 5-1 on the year.

Manager Kevin Baez on the series win vs. Quebec, “A credit to the guys playing the game to its end, good at bats and playing to the very last out. What an exciting way to win it there with the fly ball to center and credit to Ryne Birk. Tagged up and started running hard from second base and allowed me an easy decision. In one word he is a gamer who comes every day grinding and ready to play and do his thing. He has been a great addition and not slowing down.”

“Grant works his tail off, comes every day with a good attitude, the talent is there and for him to have a game like that was great for him and us. Senoo has a been a great addition, a great kid and guys love him and good teammate. He comes every day working hard with a smile on his face and only 20 years old and proven he belongs and can have success. Robbie is pitching with so much confidence and wants the ball and loves that moment. He has pitched well in that situation and will keep on getting the ball.”

“The one thing about this team when they were struggling is there were good character and clubhouse guys. Things were not going there way but still came to the park every day with a good attitude and get a win the next day. They didn’t put their heads down and sulk. We prepare the right way, right mindset and getting the rewards right now.”

Evening up their record at 32-32 and in third place in the Can-Am League standings, Rockland takes on the New Jersey Jackals (31-31) in a three game series with the first game of the series on Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. that concludes the 11 game home stand before the series switches to Yogi Berra Stadium for the two remaining games.

“They’re a good team, struggled of late but everybody goes through that and we have to keep riding this hot wave,” said Birk. “We have to keep being aggressive, pitching and hitting well and playing good defense.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Sunil is the Rockland Boulders Beat Writer for DoubleGSports.com and also covers North Jersey High School Sports
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