By Sports Reporter Sunil Sunder Raj for The Every Day Fan Sports
Winners of five in a row, the New York Boulders (30-34), we’re building a ton of momentum. With the 2021 Frontier League regular season coming down the home stretch, the Boulders were entering a critical time with a 12-game homestand.
A tight race for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with Tri-City Valley Cats (33-31) in the first place as Équipe Québec (30-34) and Boulders trailed closely behind.
New York had golden opportunities to swipe both games in the first two games of a three-game set against Équipe Québec at Palisades Credit Union Park. Leading 3-1 in the series opener in the eighth inning, Équipe Québec rallying to score three times to take the lead and tack on four more in the ninth to break the game wide open.
The next night, the Boulders fell behind 1-0 after one inning only to erupt for five runs in the second inning. Once again, Équipe Québec answered back with three runs in the third inning, then tying the game up in the eighth inning.
Eventually, the game went to a home run derby, the second for New York in the past week. The trio of Riley Pittman, Raphael Gladu, and Connor Panas uncorking ten home runs for Équipe Québec compared to just one home run off the bat of third baseman Ray Hernandez.
Looking to avoid the series sweep, New York called upon starting pitcher Orsen Josephina. In his last start on Tuesday, August 3rd, Josephina hurling a gem against the New Jersey Jackals with six shutout innings, allowing four hits, walking two and five strikeouts.
Équipe Québec jumped out to a 2-0 inning in the third inning. The Boulders responded in the fourth inning. Ray Hernandez crushed his team-leading and Frontier League 19th home run of the season, a two-run blast that sailed over the left-field concourse fence.
In the fifth inning, New York jumped in front on a sac fly from left-fielder Jack Sundberg. Following Sundberg, right-fielder Kevonte Mitchell belting an RBI triple to centerfield.
Meanwhile, Josephina cruised along after a rough third inning by racking ten strikeouts through six innings. In the bottom half of the sixth, first baseman Marcus Mastrobuoni provided extra insurance, bashing an RBI single to right field.
With his pitch count surpassing 100 pitches in the seventh inning, Josephina did his best to muster through the exhaustion. Fanning Connor Panas for his 11th strikeout to begin the top seventh. Josephina came within one strikeout of tying the Boulders record for most strikeouts in a single game.
The New York Boulders infield flashed the leather on a ground ball hit by Jonathan Lacroix that deflected off Marcus Mastrobuoni’s glove to second baseman Zach Kirtley who tossed the ball to Josephina, covering the first base bag for the out.
At that point, manager TJ Stanton decided to make the pitching change by calling on Nathan Alexander. Josephina exited to a thunderous ovation from the home crowd after throwing 117 pitches. With Jesse Hodges at second base, L.P. Pelletier laced a single to left field as Hodges came across to score, making it 5-3.
James Mulry came into pitch for New York in the eighth inning. Équipe Québec kept the pressure up by loading up the bases with one out. Mulry managed to get Connor Panas into grounding out, but a run came across as the game became even tighter.
Facing Jesse Hodges with runners on second and third base with two outs, the count went to 3-2 before Mulry escaped the jam by getting Hodges to fly out to centerfield.
TJ Stanton handed the ball off to Zach Schneider in the ninth inning. Schneider slammed the door shut with a spotless appearance to notch his third save of the season. Orsen Josephina earned his fifth win, yielding three runs on four hits and walking four.