Off the heels of taking three out of four games in Ottawa, the Rockland Boulders moved on to play the second-place Quebec Capitales in a three-game set at Stade Canac. Quebec had taken the last five games, including a series sweep a couple of weeks ago where they outscored Rockland 12 to two.
In game one of the series, Quebec quickly jumped out to a lead in the third inning due a pair of errors committed by Rockland infielders. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth, Marcus Knect’s bloop single off starter Markus Solbach brought home Maxx Tissenbaum.
Solbach managed to bear down and strike out back-to-back hitters and induce Phillippe Craig-St. Louis into a ground out avoiding further damage. Stymied early on by Quebec starter Karl Gelinas, the Boulders broke through in the fifth on a two-run double from Dylan Tice. Cody Regis kept the inning alive legging out an infield single. With runners on the corners and two outs, Gelinas uncorked a wild pitch with Marcus Nidiffer at the player allowing Tice to come in to score.
Facing an escalating pitch count nearing 120 pitches in the sixth and runners at second and third with one out, Solbach reared back and wiggled out of the jam getting Craig-St. Louis to fly out to right field and Yurisbel Gracial to fly out to centerfield.
In the eighth, with runners on the corners and two outs, Quebec reclaimed the advantage as Craig-St. Louis ripped a single through the hole into left field scoring Marcus Knecht. Leading off the ninth, Mike Montville led off with a walk and moved over to second on a wild pitch tossed by Capitales closer Nolan Becker. Down to the last strike of the game, Mike Fransoso hit a flare single into shallow left plating Montville. However, in the bottom half of the frame it just took one swing to end it, a colossal two-run walk-off homer by Tissenbaum off Matt Kostalos.
“A great start by Markus (Solbach), pitched himself out of a couple of jams” Manager Jamie Keefe said. “Down early but battled and were able to scratch out some big bats when we needed to” “We made very few mistakes on the mound but they took care of them when they needed to”
In game two of the series, Rockland had plenty of early scoring opportunities but was unable to take advantage of them, as they stranded nine runners on base throughout the entire game. Marcus Nidiffer changed that problem with one swing in the third, clubbing his first homer since June 18th over the left field wall. The Capitales wasted no time responding in the bottom half of the frame as D’Vontrey Richardson’s RBI single off starter Richard Salazar evened the game up at 1-1.
With runners at second and third, Yorduan Manduley hammered a single into left field plating two runs. Salazar (3-2) managed to limit the damage by inducing Yurisbel Gracial into an inning-ending double play. Departing after six innings, Salazar gave up four runs, three earned on five hits while striking out five and walking two.
Meawhile, Quebec starter Arik Sikula (9-3) handcuffed the Boulders the rest of the game, retiring seven in a row at one point while tossing eight inning yielding one run on eight hits, fanning eight and walking two. Manduley drove in his third run of the game in the eighth smashing a two-out single making it 5-1.
“Rich (Salazar) was good and we didn’t get the big knock tonight” Keefe said. “A little frustrating up here but a win tomorrow and we could come home 4-3 on the trip”
The series finale resembled the intensity and emotion of last year’s playoff series between both teams. Quebec followed the blueprint of game one racing out to an early 3-0 margin. Once again, Rockland answered back with Joe Maloney crushing his league-leading 22nd home run of the season, a three-run cannon shot over the left field wall in the fourth inning.
Mike Fransoso appeared to have given the Boulders a 4-3 lead in the seventh on a solo homer over the right field wall. For some inexplicable reason the umpires did not see the ball go over the ball in fair territory, conferring together and ruling it a foul ball.
Undeterred by the blown call, Rockland had runners on the corners in the eighth, Jared McDonald grounded out to second bringing in Maloney. The see-saw action continued in the bottom half of the inning as Jordan Lennerton bashed a solo shot off over the left field wall off Matt Kostalos.
Maxx Tissenbaum followed cranking a double into the left center gap. The pivotal moment of the game occurred when James McOwen hit a grounder to Dylan Tice, at first bobbling the ball Tice managed to recover and fire a strike to third catching Tissenbaum leaning off the bag as Daniel Arribas applied the tag.
Rockland closer Jon Velasquez entered the game and proceeded to strike out Marcus Knecht and Adam Ehrlich. In the ninth with a runner on second with two outs, Velasquez induced Yurisbel Gracial into grounding out to short.
In the 10th, Joe Maloney and Marcus Nidiffer hit back-to-back singles and bases were packed after an intentional walk issued to Mike Montville. Arribas stepped up to the plate and delivered the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly to right field. Velasquez continued his stellar relief outing retiring the side in order for his third win of the season.
“That felt like a playoff game tonight and a great win” said Keefe. “We come home 4-3 and a little banged up”
The Boulders (44-25) return to Palisades Credit Union Park on Thursday to face off against the Ottawa Champions in a four-game series. So far Rockland has dominated the season series against Ottawa, grabbing 11-of-14 games.