Boulders off to 0-3 start
With a new manager in Kevin Baez and 21 players donning the Rockland Boulders uniform for the first time, the Boulders are off to a rough start in the 2019 Can-Am League season sporting an 0-3 record. The schedule makers did the Boulders no favors opening up a four-game series against the 2018 champs in the Sussex County Miners and splitting time between Palisades Credit Union Park and Skylands Stadium.
After dropping the home opener last Thursday the series switched to Skylands Stadium where the Miners received their championship rings and unveiled the championship banner. Down 1-0 at the end of the first inning, Rockland caught a break as heavy rains caused the game to be suspended.
Switching back to Palisades Credit Union Park on Saturday night, the Boulders trailed 2-0 in third inning but left fielder Grant Heyman quickly tied the game up in the bottom half of the frame with a two-run single to left field. Starting pitcher Pasquale Mazzoccoli struggled in four innings on the mound yielding two runs on five hits, walking three and striking out four.
Using six relief pitchers on the night kept the game tied until the eighth inning when miscues bit Rockland harshly once again with Troy Dixon hitting a sharp grounder that scooted underneath the glove on second baseman allowing Brandon Downes to come in to score from second base.
Amassing just two hits in the season opener, Rockland’s offense mustered just three hits while striking out 11 times. Despite the struggles there was a golden opportunity to tie the game up in the ninth. Collin Ferguson drew a lead off walk, Mitch Piatnik came in as a pinch runner and took second on a wild pitch uncorked by Sussex County reliever Ryan Newell. However, Newell ended any chance of the Boulders tying it up striking out Cito Culver to end the game.
Resuming the suspended game from Friday night, Rockland trailed 1-0 after the first inning. Frank Moscatiello took over the pitching duties from JD Busfield. Moscatiello struggled mightily in two and two-third innings on the hill, permitting four runs on one hit but walking nine hitters as the Miners scored four times. Four Rockland relievers issued a total of 14 free passes that it reached the level where catcher Blake Grant-Parks came into pitch in the eight inning. Sussex County tacked on four additional runs for the 9-1 victory.
In the series finale, the Miners jumped to the early lead on a two-run double from Angel Reyes in the second. The Boulders offense started to show signs of snapping out of their funk with Collin Ferguson ripping an RBI single off former Rockland starter David Palladino to right field with an additional run coming across home plate on a error by Reyes. In the fourth inning Jordan Hinshaw put the Boulders up for the first time in the series drilling a single to left field that brought in John Brontsema from second base.
Starter Justin Valdespina lasted through three and one-third innings before Nick Kennedy came on to record the last two outs in the fourth. In the fifth inning, Rockland extended the advantage to 5-2 on a pair of RBI singles from Cito Culver and Ryne Birk. Just when it seemed the Boulders were primed to win their first game of the 2019 regular season, the Miners responded with a flourish in the sixth tallying three runs. There was no answer for Sussex County first baseman Audy Ciriaco who went 6 for 14 in the series and is second in the Can-Am with a .429 batting average.
Once again Mother Nature wreaked havoc with the series as heavy rain and thunderstorms engulfed Skylands Stadium forcing the game to be suspended with one out in the bottom seventh. After a day off on Monday, the Boulders return to action on Tuesday welcoming in the Ottawa Champions for a three-game series with first pitch scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Sunil Sunder Raj
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