Joe Maloney and Jon Smith belted back-to-back home runs in a four-run first inning that carried the host Rockland Boulders to a 6-5 victory over the Cuban National Team last Thursday evening at Palisades Credit Union Park.
C.J. Riefenhauser, the former Mahopac High School star, pitched the first five innings to collect his fourth win in five decisions this season as the Boulders captured the rubber contest in their three-game series against the Cubans.
The loss to the Boulders brought a controversial end to the Cuban National Team’s month-long tour of the CanAm League. Cuba, just 5-16 on its trip, wound up forfeiting the game with two outs in the ninth inning after the reversal of a safe call at second base set off a wild exchange with the livid Cuban coaching staff sending the umpiring crew fleeing from the playing field.
Rockland, with a league-best 30-10 record after the win, found itself trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first after a run-scoring single by Denis Laza. But Dylan Tice reached on a one-out walk, then moved to second on a single by Cody Regis. Maloney followed with his league-leading 15th homer and then the lefty-hitting Smith added another long ball.
In the second inning, Aaron Wilson led off with a double, driving Cuban starter Alain Sanchez out of the game. Matt Fortin greeted relief pitcher Yariel Rodriguez with an RBI single, increasing the Boulders’ lead to 5-1. After the Cubans scored twice in the sixth, Rockland answered with its final run in the seventh as Smith smacked a two-out double to left and scored on a double by Mike Montville.
The Cuban National Team added two runs in the eighth inning, closing to within 6-5 and setting the stage for the wild finish still to come. In the ninth, Yoelkis Cespedes, the half-brother of the New York Met slugger, reached on a one-out single. He was ruled safe at second base on a fielder’s choice play, but the umpires conferred and wound up changing the call due to interference.
That sent an entire contingent of Cuban coaches onto the field in a rage. The game ended with the umpires being chased into the stands down the right-field line, but soon the two teams put the bizarre ending behind them and shook hands in the infield.
The Boulders, who began their season with seven straight wins, play six consecutive home games starting on Tuesday, July 11. The first three are against the Quebec Capitales and the final three are against the New Jersey Jackals.