WALDORF, Md. – The High Point Rockers built a 7-1 lead before nearly letting it slip away and claiming a 7-6 win in the series opener at Southern Maryland on Tuesday night at Regency Furniture Stadium.
With the Rockers leading 7-1 in the eighth, the Blue Crabs rallied for five runs in the bottom of the eighth to make it a one-run game going into the ninth.
Jameson McGrane came on in the ninth and allowed a single to shortstop Michael Baca who took second on a wild pitch. McGrane was able to retire Jack Sundberg on an infield popout and struck out pinch-hitter K.C. Hobson. Braxton Lee and Khalil Lee each drew a walk to load the bases. McGrane then fanned Alex Crosby on a 3-2 pitch to preserve the win.
The win helps the Rockers preserve a half-game lead in the Atlantic League’s South Division race. High Point improved to a league-best 69-36 and 28-14 in the second half. Gastonia was a full-game back at 27-15 but was leading Spire City 6-0 in the fifth inning of their game. A Gastonia win would pull the Honey Hunters to within a half-game at 28-15.
Shed Long, Jr. led off the game with an opposite field double. Southern Maryland starter Ian Kahaloa (L, 9-7) walked D.J. Burt who reached base for the 60th consecutive game. After a double steal, Zander Wiel sent a sac fly to centerfield, allowing Long, Jr. to scamper home with a 1-0 lead for the Rockers.
The Blue Crabs tied the game in the fifth when Rockers starter Brandon Leibrandt (W, 3-2) walked Jimmy Kerrigan with two outs before Baca tripled to knot the game at 2-2. High Point regained the lead in the sixth when Burt doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a groundout by Wiel.
Leibrandt left after six innings with a 2-1 lead, having allowed just three hits and one run while walking one and striking out eight. Cam Bedrosian put the Blue Crabs down in order in the seventh.
High Point put up a five spot in the seventh to leap in front 7-1. Kahaloa walked DH Emmanuel Tapia who scored on a double by Michael Martinez. Long, Jr. then singled to plate Martinez to make it 4-1. Long, Jr. moved to second on a wild pitch as Ben Aklinski drew a walk to put runners at first and second. The Blue Crabs went to the bullpen and Andre Scrubb came on and immediately allowed a three-run homer to Wiel, his 26th of the year.
Things unraveled a bit in the bottom of the eighth when Taylor Guerrieri came on for the Rockers with a 7-1 lead. Isaias Quiroz singled to lead off and a single by Baca and a walk to Sundberg loaded the bases. Ian Yetsko grounded out in the infield as Quiroz scored to make it 7-2. Sam Selman relieved Guerrieri and walked Khalil Lee to force in a third run. A Crosby single made it a 7-4 contest and Jimmy Kerrigan’s single under the glove of Martinez brought in two more as So. Maryland closed it to 7-6.
The Rockers nearly added an insurance run in the top of the ninth but Martinez was thrown out at home trying to score on a fly ball by Aklinski.
Game two of the series with Southern Maryland will take place on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. at Regency Furniture Stadium. The game will be streamed live on FLO Baseball and also available on the Mixlr app.
NOTES: D.J. Burt has reached base in 60 consecutive games after drawing a walk and collecting a base hit vs. So. Maryland… The save was McGrane’s second of the year but the 27th of his Atlantic League career… Wiel now has 26 homers and 82 RBI on the season.