Just 24 hours from the Rockland Boulders eliminating the New Jackals in the Can-Am League Semifinals and advancing to a second consecutive championship series, Boulders manager Jamie Keefe echoed nothing but confidence heading into Game 1 on Tuesday night. The Boulders will face the Quebec Capitales at Palisades Credit Union Park.
“We’re ready to go for Game 1,” said Keefe. “Bo [Budkevics] and I had a long meeting. We feel he pitches well at home and has struggled at Quebec. We have [Justin] Topa going into Game 2, Salazar [Richard] in Game 3, [Markus] Solbach in Game 4 and [David] Fischer in Game 5”
“It’s been a very stressful year as a team. From myself to management and down, we have been banged up all season, not catching a break. [Daniel] Arribas, [Mike] Montville, [Jared] McDonald and [Aaron] Wilson all stepped up and did what they needed to. Also, don’t forget Alex [Herceg]. The top four guys didn’t too much but we won with our pitching defense that were fantastic. I always say good pitching and defense beats good hitting every day.”
Playing in their third championship in the past four years, Rockland will attempt to erase the bitter disappointment from last year’s championship series. The Boulders were against the Ottawa Champions leading 2-0 in the series before dropping the last three games at Palisades Credit Union Park. Back in the 2014, the Boulders won its first title in franchise history and notched back-to-back regular season titles in 2014 and 2015.
Keefe understands the significance of how far the franchise has come in the past 5 seasons and importance of playing at Palisades Credit Union Park. In 2013, Rockland finished under .500 with a 49-51 record.
“It’s Yankee Stadium to me every day and best office in the independent baseball. I can’t say how lucky I am to go to work every single day. Jerod Edmondson, Matt Nandin and Chad Robinson we added to the system. We are at the point where we expect it and want it. Three out of last four years getting that opportunity and take things to that next level.”
“Marcus Nidiffer, somebody on the outside and had been there before, played at highest level and championship series. 9 years under his belt and led every single pitch into the playoffs. Pretty good feat for a catcher. Go into the playoffs every single season, that is pretty special. A few rings later you’re able to smile about it.”
This season Rockland and Quebec battled until the very last of the regular season. Edging out the Boulders(64-35) by a half-game for the regular season title with the Capitales (65-35). Quebec is back in the championship series for the first time since 2013. More impressive is the fact the Capitales won five straight Can-Am League Championships from 2009 to 2013. Quebec advanced to the championship series by sweeping Sussex County. In the regular season series Quebec won 11 out of the 18 games against Rockland.
The Capitales had seven players named to the 2017 Can-Am League All-Star Postseason Team. The team is led by Maxx Tissenbaum (.344, 13 HR’s, 59 RBI), Jordan Lennerton (.328, 14 HR’s, 82 RBI’s) and Kalian Sams (23 HR’s second in the league, 82 RBI’s). Yurisbel Gracial and Yordan Manduley both hit over .300.
Quebec’s pitching staff dominated not just during the regular season but in the playoff semifinals. Recording a 1.93 E.R.A. Led by Arik Sikula registering 12 wins and 119 strikeouts followed by league pitcher of the year. Lazaro Blanco. Blanco tallied 11 victories and 118 strikeouts, Karl Gelinas (9-3) 91 strikeouts and Joseph Maher (8-5) 88 strikeouts. In the bullpen, closer Nolan Becker amassed 22 saves this season.
Rockland features the Player of the Year, Joe Maloney, belting a league and franchise record 35 home runs along with 101 RBI’s. Named to the Can-Am League All-Star Postseason Team in his first season with the Boulders, second baseman Dylan Tice swiped a league high 32 stolen bases. Mike Montville, Rookie of the Year had 13 HR’s and 50 RBI’s. In the first round of the playoffs, Cody Regis went 7 for 14 while Daniel Arribas led the team in RBI’s with 5.
Hurling a complete game 4-hitter and fanning 11 against New Jersey in the playoff semifinals, Justin Topa led the league in wins with 14. Markus Solbach added 11 wins. In the clinching win over the Jackals in Game 4, Fischer tossed a no-hitter for 6 2/3 innings while whiffing 11 hitters. Returning after a month pitching in Mexico, Mayckol Guaipe finished the season with a team high 14 saves.
“Our pitching has a job to keep them four runs a game or under. If so, we have a really good chance of winning. Both teams’ play good defense, run the bases well and a battle of the bullpens.”
“We played a team in Ottawa and never lost a series. This year I have to admit Quebec had our number. We know pretty good how to pitch them,” said Keefe. “We have to do damage. This team is built for this ball park. We need to get guys on, have timely hitting and hit with runners in scoring position. If we do that, we will be fine. If not, we struggle. We have to run the counts and get to their bullpen into the 6th or 7th for a shot at winning the game. If we wait until the 8th or 9th we’re in trouble.”