Boulders Take 2 out of 3 Against New Jersey
Rockland Boulders Manager Jamie Keefe said yesterday after the series ended against the New Jersey Jackals, “the game of baseball is crazy, sometimes it treats you good and then rough.” Searching for consistent starting pitching, the Boulders cut pitchers Daniel Diaz and Brad Schaenzer and signed Brian Ernst.
On the disabled list the past two weeks, Garrett Johnson made his return to the mound in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Tuesday morning at Palisades Credit Union Park. Not displaying any rust at all, Johnson fired six strong innings, yielding just one on five hits, walking four and striking out four to earn his third win of the season. Benefitting from early run support, Rockland relied on their power strength that is the home run with Cody Regis blasting his team leading 16th home run and Marcus Nidiffer connecting on his 13th of the year. Kyle Hansen worked a perfect seventh to register his ninth save.
In the second game, Keefe did not waste any time utilizing Ernst making his Rockland Boulders debut. Despite walking five hitters, Ernst tossed five innings surrendering one run on four hits and whiffing three exiting the game with a no-decision. Ernst and New Jersey starter engaged in a pitcher’s duel for the first five innings. Conor Bierfeldt tied the game up at 1-1 in the fourth slugging his 10th home run. The Jackals managed to tag the Boulders bullpen, scoring six times off the combination of Nick Kennedy and Tommy Lawrence.
“He was awesome, both starters were fantastic and two great starts in one day,” said Keefe on Garrett Johnson’s performance. “If we throw the ball like that we’re going to have a lot more success. Any time we swing the bats and hit the ball out of the ballpark we have a good shot. When our pitching keeps teams’ to one run, we will be awfully tough to beat for sure.”
The series finale switched to Yogi Berra Stadium with another early morning start. After a rough start on July 4 against the Ottawa Champions where he lasted just 4 2/3 innings, David Palladino shook off that lackluster performance hurling six shutout innings, retiring 11 batters at one points, scattering one hit, walking three and fanning five.
Palladino benefitted from run support as Rockland tacked on runs in the fourth and sixth inning. Catcher Jason Agresti extended the lead in the seventh with an RBI double. Handing the ball off to Kyle Hansen, New Jersey did not go away quietly. With runners on the corner and one outs, Carlos Triunfel flicked an RBI single into shallow right field. Next stepped up Kevin Torres who hit a soft ground ball to first but the ball scooted under the glove of Mikael Mogues as two runs scored on the play sending the game to extra innings.
Rockland had a great opportunity to regain the lead in the tenth with runners on second and third with one out but Marcus Nidiffer grounded into a force out at home plate and Vin Mazzaro struck out Mikael Mogues with runners at first and second to end the inning. In the bottom half of the frame the Jackals had runners at first and second with one out, New Jersey committed a pair of base running mistakes as the game went into the 11th where the International Rules took over with the last hitter that ended a inning would start out at second base.
After Jared McDonald was intentionally walked, that set the stage for Aaron Wilson. On the disabled list for the past several weeks and batting average below .200, Wilson redeemed himself cranking two-run triple down the right field line as the Boulders dugout erupted in euphoria.
“He has been banged up, last weekend he wasn’t feeling well and able to capitalize and huge knock off Mazarro,” said Keefe.
In the bottom 11th it was the Jackals turn with David Harris at second base, after moving to third on a ground out, Harris came into score on a single by Seth Spivey. Nolan Meadows followed with another base hit but Frank Moscatiello closed it out retiring the last two hitters for his second win of the year and the Boulders escaped with a thrilling victory and improved to 28-23 on the season.
“He(Frank Moscatiello) showed today he can close a game and more importantly showed he can do anything we ask out of him and huge for us,” Keefe said. “A great team win and guys fought back.”
The schedule does not get any easier for Rockland, facing off against the second place Quebec Capitales (31-19) in a four game series at Stade Canac beginning on Thursday night. This season, Quebec has won four out of the seven, including three out of four at the end of May. After returning home, the Boulders have an off day, followed by a critical two game showdown against the first place Sussex Miners (33-18) at Skylands Stadium.
“Not August yet but a big one against Quebec, we’re more worried about getting healthy and putting the best one out there,” said Keefe. “A tough place to play and we would be stoked if we come 3-1.”