WALDORF, Md. – The Atlantic League’s South Division first half championship will be decided on Friday night at Truist Point. The de facto “championship game” will determine the South’s first half winner after both the High Point Rockers and Gastonia Honey Hunters each suffered road losses on Thursday night.
The Rockers were shutout 3-0 at Southern Maryland while Gastonia fell 6-4 at Frederick.
The Rockers will enter Friday’s contest with a 40-22 first half record. They are currently one game behind Gastonia at 41-21. A High Point win on Friday would create a tie for the first half title but the Rockers would own the tiebreaker. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head competition which, with a High Point win on Friday, would be tied at 5-5. The second tiebreaker is how each team fared within the South Division. High Point has gone 24-10 vs. South Division opponents and a win Friday would make the Rockers 25-10 (.714). Gastonia, with a loss on Friday, would be 25-12 (.676). If Gastonia wins on Friday, they will take the division title with a 42-21 record and the Rockers would finish the first half at 40-23.
On Thursday, the Rockers sent Mickey Jannis (L, 8-2) to the mound, seeking his league-leading ninth win of the year. Southern Maryland countered with former Rocker starter Liam O’Sullivan (W, 4-2).
The game was scoreless through three innings as Jannis and O’Sullivan matched zeroes. The Rockers left the bases loaded in the third when Daikan Yoh grounded out to short.
The Blue Crabs put the first run on the board in the fourth when Braxton Lee reached on an infield single and moved all the way to third on a throwing error by Shed Long, Jr. Alex Crosby singled to right to bring home Lee. A wild pitch and a passed ball moved Crosby to third and he scored on a sac fly off the bat of Ryan Haug for a 2-0 Blue Crab lead.
So. Maryland made it a 3-0 game in the sixth when Khalil Lee doubled and scored on a single by Braxton Lee.
O’Sullivan allowed four hits and nary a run through his first seven innings of work. After allowing a lead-off single to Long, Jr. in the top of the eighth, O’Sullivan exited for reliever Endrys Briceno (S, 2). Ryan Grotjohn clubbed Briceno’s first pitch off the wall in right as Long, Jr. went all the way to third. But Briceno kept the Rockers off the scoreboard by striking out Wiel, retiring Yoh on a liner to third and getting Ben Aklinski to fly out to left.
The Rockers finished the game with six hits as Long, Jr. collected two of them. So. Maryland was led by Braxton Lee who also had a pair of hits.
Friday night, the Rockers will send right hander Jheyson Manzueta (1-0, 4.82 ERA) to face Gastonia righty Ryan Conroy (1-0, 5.00). Tickets for the game are available online at HighPointRockers.com and also at the Truist Point Box Office. The game will be streamed live on FLO Baseball and also available on the Mixlr app. Game time is set for 6:35 p.m. and a fireworks show will follow.