Coming off a disappointing loss the night before to Sussex County and splitting a four-game series, the Rockland Boulders looked to rebound with a pivotal three-game series against the first-place Quebec Capitales at Palisades Credit Union.
Mired in a 2-for-28 slump and attempting to tie the Can-Am League home run single season record held by Quebec’s Eddie Latingua of 31 in 2005, Joe Maloney did not waste any time snapping out of the funk and tying the record, clobbering a massive drive out of the ball park in the left field in the first inning. With the home run, Rockland broke the Can-Am League record for most team home runs in a season at 109 eclipsing the total set by the New Jersey Jackals back in 2012.
Tied at 1-1 in the third inning, Capitales third baseman Yurisbel Gracial belted a solo shot off Rockland starter Richard Salazar. In the eighth inning, Boulders third baseman Cody Regis tied the ballgame up with an RBI single and Jared McDonald followed with the game-winning single bringing in Maloney.
Salazar tossed seven innings yielding two runs on six hits while striking out six and walking two but did not factor in the decision. Mayckol Guaipe (3-0) earned the victory in relief while Jon Velasquez responded with a flourish after surrendering a go-ahead home run the night before against the Miners registering his 12th save of the year.
“What a feat, a 1,000 pounds came off his shoulders tonight and hit a car parked on the other side of the street” said Manager Jamie Keefe. “A huge kick on our side because we had given up one and able to come back immediately” “Tonight was a complete different buzz in the stadium and had a really good crowd” “We were really lined up for these guys and fit well and able to go out and do what we had to do” “When you play Quebec it’s never going to be an easy one”
Before a sellout crowd of 6,560 in game two of the series, Maloney picked up where he left off the night before in the first inning, breaking the Can-Am League for most home runs in the season bashing a solo shot into the Short Porch area in right field. The crowd saluted Maloney with a standing ovation while all of the Rockland players gave big hugs.
In the second inning, the Boulders extended the lead on a Mikael Mogues RBI double and run-producing single by Mike Fransoso. The lead would be short lived as Quebec clawed back off the starter Justin Topa with a run in the third and two in the fourth. Topa departed after 5 1/3 innings surrendering three runs on six hits while fanning three and walking three.
The Capitales took the lead for good in the eighth off closer Jon Velasquez(3-2) on back-to-back home runs by Yurisbel Gracial and Jordan Lennerton.
Wrapping up the 2017 home regular season schedule and second largest Sunday crowd of 5,853 since September of 2011, Quebec jumped out to the early advantage scoring twice in the first inning off Rockland starter Markus Solbach.
For the third consecutive game and in the first inning, Joe Maloney found the seats launching his league-leading 33rd homer of the season into the left center grandstands. Maloney also tied the franchise record for most RBI’s in the season with his 93rd set by teammate and captain Marcus Nidiffer in 2015.
“It means a lot and been working very hard and went through a little skid this past week or so” said Joe Maloney. “Finally pulling some good at bats together and good pitches and swings” “Great to have all these fans here and second biggest crowd ever and love seeing these people in these seats”
“RBI’s come with the extra base hits and I like to get those and they say records are made to be broken and all in fun and messing with Marcus(Nidiffer)” “I’m really comfortable here, Jamie(Keefe) put together a good clubhouse and we come out to play and have fun and easy to play in an atmosphere like that”
Fireworks erupted in the top 2nd with Rockland starter/pitching coach Richard Salazar ejected from the game. That lit a spark under the Boulders as catcher Daniel Arribas leading off the third with a solo blast into the left field grandstand off Capitales starter Arik Sikula, second in the league with 12 wins.
With two outs in the fourth, Jared McDonald belted a double into the right center gap bringing in Cody Regis all the way from first base. Arribas(5th home run) followed going yard for a second time, cranking a two-run missile on to the concourse extending the lead to 5-2 and increasing the Boulders league-record home run total to 113.
“It was awesome and every day you go up to the plate and step on the field and contribute and try to put your team in a position to win and today I was that guy that made the difference and felt good and needed it and confidence booster” Daniel Arribas said. “Going into the playoffs and happened on the last day in front of the fans” “The numbers speak for themselves as we are stacked one through nine and anybody can make a difference in the game at any moment” “We can be down six or seven runs and come back” “An honor and pleasure to play behind these guys because you learn from them every single day and all great hitters and approach” “The older guys help out the younger guys and a special group of guys”
After a rough first inning, Solbach dominated hurling six shutout innings while retiring 10 in a row at one point and not allowing a hit from the second until the sixth inning. Before handing the baton off to the bullpen in the seventh, Solbach yielded two runs on four hits while whiffing five and walking one”
Meanwhile, the Boulders offense kept charging ahead in the fifth with more clutch two-out hitting. Marcus Nidiffer got it going with a single into center scoring Dylan Tice. Mike Montville put the game out of reach ripping a two-run double down the left field line.
“A really good one and guys were locked in and Sikula has owned all year” Keefe said. “A little bit different when you play in this park and definitely got to him today and huge and needed that” “Markus(Solbach) throws 25 pitches in first and 70 rest of the way and you can’t ask for more and got the ground balls when he needed to” “Good for Danny(Arribas) and he needed that” “He’s been hitting the ball pretty damn foo and not much results and had a big night”
Rockland moved to 60-33 on the season clinching home field advantage in the first round of the Can-Am League Playoffs and drew to within a half-game of Quebec(60-32) in the league standings. After a day off on Monday, the Boulders finish up the regular season with a seven-game road trip, starting a three-game series at the New Jersey Jackals and finishing up with a four-game set at Ottawa.
“It’s huge to have that last at bat at our place in any series is huge in the first round and hopefully we can take care of it from there” said Keefe. “It would be nice to take 2 out of 3 against them(New Jersey) if we face them in the playoffs” “I truly feel like it’s in our hands if we go 5-2”
Sunil Sunder Raj
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