AUGUSTA, NJ – The Sussex County Miners came back from a five-run deficit for the second time in three games and defeated the Rockland Boulders in a back-and-forth contest on Monday night at Skylands Stadium. Sussex County (21-29) erased a 6-1 deficit and won, 9-8, in a game that featured three lead changes.
The Miners began their first, and largest, comeback in the third inning. Sussex County trailed by five runs, but Johnny Bladel led off the inning with a double and Sergio Miranda knocked him home with a single. The Miners caught a break later ion the inning when a two-out error by Rockland (32-21) first baseman Charlie Law allowed Miranda to score and kept the inning alive. Two batters later, Cory Morales hit a ground ball into the shortstop hole. Junior Arrojo made a backhand stop, but his throw to first was not in time to get the hustling Morales. Ryan Mathews scored on the infield single and the Miners trailed, 6-4.
Sussex County completed the comeback in the fourth. Once again, Bladel reached base to begin the inning. He walked, Miranda singled and Kenny Bryant hit a soft fly ball to center that Jared McDonald slid after, but could not catch. Bladel scored on the bloop single and the Miners cut their deficit to one run. The next batter, Ryan Mathews, chopped a grounder to second base that scored Miranda to tie the game at 6-6.
The Miners were not done scoring in the fourth. Rockland committed another error, this time by third baseman Ryan Fisher, to allow Frank Salerno to reach and put baserunners on the corners. With Salerno on first, Bryant on third and two outs, a 3-0 pitch to Jayson Hernandez sailed outside and skipped to the backstop. Bryant scored on the wild pitch to give Sussex County its first lead of the day, 7-6.
Rockland did not let the Miners keep their lead very long. Joe Maloney began the fifth with a single and Marcus Nidiffer was hit by a pitch immediately after. Two batters later, Law made up for his error with a two-run double to give Rockland another lead, 8-7.
The seesaw game continued, as the Miners stormed back in the bottom of the fifth. Brady Wilson and Bladel worked back-to-back walks to start the inning and Miranda moved them both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. With Bryant at the plate and one out, the Miners caught another break, as another wild pitch by starter Mike Dennhardt allowed Wilson to come home with the tying run. Later in the at-bat, Bryant gave Sussex County the lead with a sacrifice fly that scored Bladel and put the Miners ahead for good, 9-8.
Miners starter Matt Sommo exited after the fifth inning and the Sussex County bullpen shut down the Boulders the rest of the way. Tony Amezcua struck out two men and worked back-to-back one-two-three innings in the sixth and seventh. Michael Suk came in after him and continued to stymie the Rockland bats with a scoreless eighth that featured one single.
Joe Testa came in to close the game out for the Miners in the ninth. The left-hander gave up a pair of one-out singles to Stephen Cardullo and Maloney, but the closer recovered quickly. Rockland had the tying- and go-ahead runs on base, but Testa struck out both Nidiffer and Ryan Fisher to end the game.
Sommo (4-5) took home the win, despite allowing eight runs (six earned) over five innings. The right-hander gave up nine hits, walked one, hit three batters and struck out four. Sommo snapped a personal three-game losing streak with the win. It was Sommo’s last victory since he beat Rockland on June 22 at Provident Bank Park. Testa picked up his 11th save.
Dennhardt (2-5) was the losing pitcher on Monday. He allowed nine runs (five earned) over five innings. Dennhardt allowed eight hits and walked a season-high seven batters. He also struck out five me. Dennhardt’s defense committed three errors with him on the mound, though one was by Dennhardt himself.
Bladel had a breakout game at the plate. He reached all five times he came to the plate on a single, a double and three walks. Bladel also scored four of the five times he reached base. The leadoff man extended his consecutive games on base streak to 14.
Miranda also contributed quite a bit at the plate. The switch-hitting infielder drove home a pair of runs and scored twice. Miranda went 2-for-4.
Fisher made the biggest contribution to Rockland’s offense. The Rockland third baseman hit a two-run homer in the second and a two-run double in the third. He led all hitters in Monday night’s game with four RBI.
Sussex County is now 3-3 in the season series against Rockland and 1-1 in the current series at Skylands Stadium. The Miners and Boulders face off again on Tuesday to finish the Miners’ seven-game homestand. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
For more information on the Sussex County Miners, call (973) 383-7644 or go online to SussexCountyMiners.com.