POMONA, NY, - In a wild game that featured five different lead changes, and nine combined errors, Game 4 of the Can-Am League Championship Series ended the only way it could, on a wild pitch to bring in the winning run.
The Jackals left it all on the field in Game 4, but it was not enough as the Boulders found a way, thanks in part to a little luck, to squeak by the Jackals, 8-7, in 10 innings on Saturday night, tying the series at two games apiece.
The fireworks started right from the get-go and never let up.
New Jersey jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on two errors by Rockland pitcher Joey Donino. Donino’s second throwing error, brought home Felix Sanchez with the first run of the day. Alonzo Harris later scored on a double by Jorge Cortes. Cortes had a chance to score the Jackals third run of the inning, but, Ryan Stovall tagged him out at home plate on a strong throw to the plate.
With New Jersey up 2-1 in the fourth inning, the Boulders took full advantage of a Jackal mistake to blow the game open.
Jackals’ starter Eric Smith forced Giuseppe Papccio into a ground ball to shortstop, for what appeared to be the start of an inning-ending double play. However, shortstop Steve Nikorak bobbled the ball and everyone was safe, loading the bases.
The Boulders made the Jackals pay. Junior Arrojo drove in Stephen Cardullo with the tying run on a single. Michael Fischer walked for his first RBI of the season, and Matt Nandin hit a slow grounder to third, allowing Papaccio to score to make it 4-2.
Before the Jackals knew it they were down 6-2. Eric Smith was out of the game after three and two-thirds innings, and Joe Calfapietra had to go to the bullpen.
But the Jackals would not give up. The Jackals loaded the bases on Donino in the top of the seventh, when Felix Sanchez reached on a dropped third strike; Alonzo reached on an error, and Jorge Cortes walked.
The stage was set for Joe Dunigan, bases loaded and two out.
Result: the Jackals single season home run leader had the biggest hit of his season, lining the first pitch he saw from reliever Shawn Gilblair over the short porch in right for a grand slam tying the game at six.
The Jackals exploded out of the dugout to greet Dunigan who touched home plate pumped up that he tied the game with one swing.
The homer was Dunigan’s second of the series; he also owns eight RBIs in the LCS.
Unfortunately, the home run was not the turning point the Jackals hoped it would be. The Boulders responded immediately in the bottom half of the second, when New Jersey failed to turn another inning ending double play. This time Richard Arias dropped his own thrown to first base on the exchange with the glove, allowing Carlos Guzman to score, giving Rockland a 7-6 lead.
Still, New Jersey wouldn’t give up. After Steven Nikorak lined a double to center and advanced to third on a wild pitch; Felix Sanchez lined a shot up the middle for a RBI single, tying the game again.
The battle waged on into extra innings with miscues once again playing a big role. Jackals closer Salvador Sanchez hit Junior Arrojo on the side with a 2-1 pitch. Arrojo eventually made his way around the bases thanks to a walk and a wild pitch to put the winning run 90 feet away.
All Sanchez needed was one more strike on Ryan Stovall to force an 11th inning, but Sanchez airmailed his 2-2 pitch over the head of Tony Caldwell to the backstop, sending Arrojo skipping home with the winning run.
The win for Rockland is all the more remarkable considering four different Boulders were thrown out on the base paths in this contest. Of the 15 combined runs scored in the game, only five runs were earned between the two teams.
The Jackals (2-2) will look to Keith Bilodeau Sunday night at 6:00 to get New Jersey back on the winning track in the LCS. He will be opposed by Rockland's Game 1 starter, Richard Salazar.
The New Jersey Jackals, proud members of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball, play their home games at Yogi Berra Stadium located on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, N.J. Group Tickets, Season Tickets, and Mini Plans are now on sale. Visit the Jackals online at www.jackals.com, and interact with the team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jackalsbaseball.