GASTONIA, N.C. – The Gastonia Honey Hunters took the first game of a crucial three-game series from High Point, winning 8-3 on Tuesday night at CaroMont Health Park.
High Point and Gastonia entered the contest in a first place tie in the Atlantic League’s South Division with matching 36-16 records and 11 games remaining in the first half of the season. The first half winners of both the North and South Divisions will earn postseason playoff spots. The win puts Gastonia one game ahead at 37-16 while the Rockers are now 36-17.
Zach Godley (W, 4-3), a former Major League pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks during a seven-year big league career, held the Rockers to just three hits over six innings while striking out eight. High Point finished the night with just four hits and 13 strikeouts.
High Point took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Ryan Grotjohn doubled off the wall in left and then scored on Ben Aklinski’s single up the middle. Gaston answered with a solo homer by Curtis Terry in the second to tie the game before Steven Sensley doubled off High Point starter Jheyson Manzueta. Cole Freeman followed with an RBI single and Kevin Santa then singled to score Freeman for a 3-1 Honey Hunter lead.
The Rockers knotted the game in the fourth when Beau Taylor drew a walk and Dai-Kang Yang homered to left to forge a 3-3 tie.
But Godley did not allow a hit over his final two innings of work and reliever David Richardson also kept the Rockers hitless through the seventh and eighth innings. Grotjohn singled with one out in the ninth but the Rockers could not score.
Gastonia broke the tie with a pair of runs off Austin Ross (L, 1-1) in the sixth. Sensley reached on a walk and Braxton Davidson homered to put Gastonia up 5-3. In the seventh, High Point’s Jeremy Rhoades walked Carlos Franco, who was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Pedro Gonzalez. Scott Manea’s single moved Gonzalez to third before Terry singled to send Gonzalez home and give the Honey Hunters a 6-3 lead. Sensley then singled to score Manea for a 7-3 advantage. Gastonia added a final run in the eighth on singles by Zach Jarrett and Franco with Jarrett scoring on an infield out by Manea.
Jheyson Manzueta, who signed with the Rockers earlier in the day, allowed three runs and five hits over 4.1 innings but did not figure in the outcome. Grotjohn was the only Rocker with two hits while Yang and Aklinski accounted for the other two runs. Terry and Davidson each had a pair of RBI for the Honey Hunters.
Game two of the series is slated for a 6:35 p.m. first pitch on Wednesday at CaroMont Health Park.