After dropping two out of three games against Quebec, losing starters Mike Fransoso and Jon Smith to serious injuries and Can-Am League standings tightening up, the Rockland Boulders looked to rebound but it would be not an easy task against New Jersey Jackals squad that swept a 3-game set at Palisades Credit Union Park almost two weeks ago and outscored Rockland 27-10.
Due to heavy rains on Friday, both teams’ were forced to play a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. In game one, RBI league leader Conrad Gregor padded his lead with three runs driven in off Boulders starter Markus Solbach in the first two innings of play including blasting a two-run homer into the Short Porch area in right field.
Rockland quickly responded in the bottom half of the third as Cody Regis drilled a two-out, two run bases loaded single into right field. Daniel Arribas put the Boulders ahead in the fourth clubbing his second home in the last four games, a three-run laser into the Short Porch area.
Tagged for a couple of runs early on, Solbach cruised the next couple of innings only to run into trouble in the 6th on back-to-back singles by Brian Burgamy and Brian Joynt. Richard Stock followed looping a double down the left field corner scoring Burgamy. Solbach issued a walk to Taylor Brennan loading up the bases. Manager Jamie Keefe made the call to the bullpen bringing in Matt Kostalos. Adam Martin stepped up to the plate and ripped a grounder that scooted under Regis’s glove scoring two runs. Jackals closer Johnny Hellweg shut the door in the ninth recording his league leading 19th save.
“Markus made two bad pitches the whole game to Gregor and Stock,” said Keefe. “With this lineup you can’t make mistakes and made them. We have to go out there and hit our spots with authority and know why we’re pitching with a purpose and a plan and we have to simply go out and get it done. The field is horse crap right now and came back and bit us at the end of the day and have to make plays and we didn’t.”
In the nightcap Bo Budkevics (4-2) dialed up a gem tossing five shutout innings allowing just three hits, walking one and striking out one. Meanwhile, Rockland capitalized on the wildness of New Jersey starter Isaac Gill early on drawing a couple of walks and with Alex Herceg up at the plate with the bases loaded, Gill uncorked a wild pitch as Herceg swung at the ball allowing Joe Maloney to score. Gill proceeded to walk his fourth batter of the inning in Jared McDonald bringing in Marcus Nidiffer.
Packing the bases for a second time in the fourth, McDonald faced a new pitcher Keuhl McEachern who issued a free pass scoring Mike Montville and giving McDonald his second run batted in of the game. Dylan Tice added to the lead with an RBI single and Cody Regis put a dagger in the contest slugging a majestic grand slam into the right center bleachers, Regis’s 11th homer of the season and 3rd round tripper and 10 RBI in past five games.
Brian Joynt broke up the shutout bid with a sac fly in the 6th. On the play Montville made a spectacular sliding catch down the right field line. The Boulders snapped a three-game losing slide and four-game streak against New Jersey.
“With this team and offense you have to just keep in it and we put up six in the fourth which was huge,” said Budkevics. “It comes with our pitching coach Rich (Salazar) who has been working on the side with me, slowing my body down, body control and slowing the game down.”
“I kind of struggled for a bit a couple of weeks ago and talked to Jamie a bit, changed a couple of things with my swing and minimize what I was doing and definitely clicking since then,” Regis said. “Keeping things simple and getting a good pitch to hit on it.”
“When I got the grand slam it started with guys in front of me stringing a couple of great at bats and a testament to what we have done all year. Not one guy up and down the lineup trying to do it by himself and trusting guys in front and behind us and keep moving as one unit and a lot of fun.”
“Evened the series up at 6-6 and that’s the battle, we scored 13 runs today,” Keefe said. “We didn’t get it done in Game 1 but Bo was really good and shut that offense down and huge. Jared with two RBI without lifting the bat off his shoulder and I think we have to play small ball right now. Runs are not coming in bunches of late and have to get back to who we are and try not to hit a three-run homer and put the ball in play and use the bases.”
In the series finale, Rockland fell behind early as New Jersey tallied five runs off Chris Carmain. Daniel Arribas fueled the rally hitting a two-run double in the sixth. Continuing his impressive run in the six-game home stand, Cody Regis swatted his 12th round tripper, a two-run moonshot into the right center bleachers in the sixth and making it four home runs and 12 runs driven in last six games.
Carmain departed after five innings, the Boulders bullpen preserved the lead hurling four shutout innings yielding just two hits. Jon Velasquez entered the game and nailed down his fifth save. Matt Kostalos earned his third win of the season in relief.
“Cody really had a good home stand and seeing it really well,” said Keefe. “Chris threw the ball really well and kept us in the ball game. Tommy (Lawrence) came in and had a fantastic inning. At the end of the day the guys did a good job staying in it and coming back and huge win for us. We needed to get out of the home stand 3-3 and get back to even and take the series and did that tonight.”
The schedule does not get any easier for Rockland(38-18), a quick three-game road trip up to Canada against the second place Quebec Capitales. Currently, the Boulders are up by three games on Quebec in the standings.
“Toughest place to play in the league and no doubt about it,” Keefe said. “When we go up there always a battle and anytime you go up there and take two out of three you have to be happy and like the rotation we have set up in Topa, Kaufman and Budkevics.”