“It’s not how hard you throw, but how you pitch,” said Rockland Boulders starter Richard Salazar after Game 1 of the Can-Am League Playoffs.
Right off the bat, Salazar encountered trouble with runners on second and third with none out in the first inning but maneuvered out of the jam including striking out New Jersey Jackals two sluggers in Joe Dunigan and Art Charles.
That set the tone for the night as Salazar wriggled out of several jams, tossing 5 2/3 innings allowing just one run on six hits while striking out four and walking three on 87 pitches. Meanwhile, designated hitter Daniel Arribas sparked the offense early on, smacking a two out single off Jackals starter Fernando Cruz in the second inning bringing in Marcus Nidiffer from second.
“A real good effort, Salazar was dominant and pitched out of several jams, second and third with none out in first was the biggest pick me up,” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “He made the pitches when he had to and we came up with some good hitting and Daniel Arribas show tonight and Cody (Regis) with a big one late and clutch two-out hitting. Joe’s catch in the gap one of the bigger plays in the game. Mayckol (Guaipe) was as dominant as I ever seen him.”
On this night the Boulders flashed the leather defensively starting with Joe Maloney making a superb over the shoulder catch in the bottom of the second and Nidiffer throwing out Johnny Bladel at third base with runners on first and second none one in the third inning.
In the fifth, Arribas was instrumental again in timely hitting poking a single into shallow right field plating Jared McDonald who led off the inning with a double. New Jersey got on the board in the sixth on a sac fly by Dunigan.
“I felt great and happy to be in the playoffs,” said Daniel Arribas. “I had confidence from the skipper to be in the lineup and contribute and all I’m trying to do and have quality at bats and not do too much and help the team win. A great team effort and looking forward to the series and we came in hot.”
Once Salazar and Cruz departed the game, it became a chess match between Keefe and Jackals manager Matt Padgett using a total of seven pitchers from the bullpen. Keefe went to Thomas Lawrence who retired all four hitters. In the top of the eighth, Rockland had a golden opportunity to break the game wide open with runners on the corner and one out, Padgett called on Nate Gercken who uncorked a wild pitch as Mike Fransoso took off for home plate but the ball ricocheted off the backstop to home allowing catcher Adam Martin to place the tag on Fransoso.
In the bottom half of frame Keefe went back to the pen signaling for C.J. Riefenhouser who promptly struck out the first two batters but then yielded a walk and single. Keefe did not waste time anytime coming out to make another change and this time going to his closer Mayckol Guaipe as the sparse but vocal crowd amped up the tension in the stadium. Facing runners on the corner and two outs, Guaipe brought the heat striking out Adam Martin.
Held without a home run since July 30, Cody Regis punctuated the night with a key insurance blasting a solo missile over the right center field wall. Guaipe slammed the door shut in the bottom of the ninth, fanning the side.
Game 2 is tonight [Friday] at Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair, New Jersey starting at 7:05 p.m. Tomorrow the series switches back to Palisades Credit Union Park for Game 3 at 6:35 p.m.