Heading into Thursday night’s 2021 regular season / home opener and Frontier League debut against the New Jersey Jackals at Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona, New York, New York Boulders first-year manager was very excited about the make-up of the team roster as well as the opportunity to start the regular season at home and play in the Frontier League.
“It’s very exciting to have a home opener, fans in the stands, and everybody’s excited to get going and have a real season,” TJ Stanton explained. “We play New Jersey 28 times; it’s very important for us this match up well; we have to win the series against New Jersey and essential for us to make the playoffs. When we joined the Frontier League and Can-Am Merger, they really did a great job of amalgamating the roster rules to make the best product possible. We have a great combination of youth and experience, and everybody has affiliated experience, so we’re younger and more athletic than the Can-Am (League), and we’re going to get a ton more guys signed. Having athletic players like Jack Sundberg and Ryan Ramiz, having overall team speed, Ray Hernandez at 230 pounds, he’s going to steal 15 bags, and we’re going to be running the bases.”
“So the idea is pitching, keep us in the game and don’t fly the plane into the mountain and don’t burn the house down, and give our hitters a puncher’s chance because we’re one swing away at all times. I think it will be closer to vintage Boulders where there are just a million doubles hit; we got guys that can get to second and be able to score from first base on doubles.”
Marking the organization’s 10th anniversary, a new name after nine years as the Rockland Boulders, there was a festive environment at Palisades Credit Union Park with a marching band playing outside of the stadium as well along the Boulders first base dugout. Both team’s non-starters and starters introduced and a stirring rendition of the national anthem.
“It’s something you think about, and when it finally happens, it fun and very satisfying feeling,” Manager TJ Stanton noted. “Just telling the guys to make sure you’re enjoying and remembering we have a job to do after this but enjoy this part, and they did. We thought about it for a year and finally hearing the cheering.”
Right off the bat, New York centerfielder, Milton Smith Jr. flashed his defensive skills by robbing New Jersey centerfielder Demetrius Moorer of a base hit with a sensational diving catch on a line drive. In the bottom half of the frame, he laced the Boulders’ first hit as a member of the Frontier League. Showcasing his speed on the base path Smith Jr. quickly swiped second base.
With runners on first and second one out, the Boulders had an ample scoring opportunity, but Jackals starting pitcher Jose Almonte managed to weave out of the jam retiring the final two hitters. In the second inning, New York had the same set-up. Once again, Almonte escaped unscathed, setting down the last two batters.
Getting the starting nod for the Boulders was Danny Wirchansky. In the third inning, New Jersey had runners on first and second two outs, but Wirchansky managed to retire Jackals left fielder Alfredo Marte on a pop-out to first baseman Ray Hernandez.
Coming up to the bat in the bottom half of the inning, third baseman Tucker Nathans reached an error. With one out Almonte plunked left fielder Kevonte Mitchell. Designated hitter Ryan Ramiz followed, grounding out to second base as Nathans came across to score.
After tossing 4 2/3 innings, Wirchansky departed the game as manager TJ Stanton summoned Zach Schneider to assume the pitching duties. With the bases loaded and two outs, Alfredo Marte inflicted damage this time around, clearing the bases belting a drive into the right-field corner.
Milton Smith Jr. faced New Jersey pitcher Jack Weinberger in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Smith Jr. hit a slow roller to second baseman Justin Wylie with the bases packed and two outs.
The play turned into an adventure as Wylie first misplayed the ball and then threw wide of first base allowing two runs to score. Looking to regain the lead with runners at second and third base, Weinberger struck out Tucker Nathans.
“Danny (Wirchansky) did fantastic, exactly what we were hoping for on opening night like that,” Manager TJ Stanton described. “That’s not even his best stuff at all, so for him to go out there without his best stuff and to perform like that and get the results he did really shows his potential.”
Morphing into a battle of the bullpens, the Boulders faced another new pitcher in Jason Zgardowski (1-0). Retiring the first two hitters of the inning, New York went to work. Ryan Ramiz ripped his second single in the game to left field, shortstop Zach Penprase smashing a double to the right-field wall after striking out in his first three at-bats and right fielder Jack Sundberg drawing an intentional walk. Ray Hernandez stepped up to the plate, but Zgarddowski slammed the door whiffing Hernandez.
Toeing the rubber for New York in the eighth inning, Brandon Bingel (0-1) yielded a lead-off single and walk. Both runners advanced to second and third base after a sac bunt from Justin Wylie. A former Boulders player came back to haunt his former team in Jason Agresti belting a sac fly to centerfield.
“Happy with the way the bullpen did, it’s a tough spot for (Zach) Schneider to come into bases loaded against the reigning MVP and Alfredo Marte is a tremendous hitter. We did a good job of keeping him at bay, but eventually he’s going to connect on some solid contact.”
Milton Smith Jr. wreaked havoc again, his speed both at the plate and on the bases in the eighth inning. Smith Jr. executed a perfectly placed infield bunt single for his third hit of the night. Displaying no hesitation at all, Smith Jr. quickly swiped his second stolen base of the night.
However, a re-occurring theme reared again with a runner stranded on base. Jackals manager Brooks Carey called upon Dylan Brammer with two outs to pitch, with Brammer fanning second baseman Zach Kirtley. One last opportunity to tie the game up in the ninth, the Boulders had the tying run on base. Brammer closed it out, retiring the remaining two hitters of the game to lock down a 4-3 victory and first save. New York left a total of 13 runners on base in the game.
Manager TJ Stanton on the loss, “We got to cash in on those runners, the whole basis of your pitching staff is to keep it close for our hitters, and you saw tonight we’re going to get on base at times. We’re in a position to win at all times; it didn’t go our way offensively, and if we pitch the way we did today, we’re going to win a lot of games.”