HIGH POINT, N.C. – In a battle between the top two teams in the Atlantic League’s South Division, Gastonia took a small bite out of High Point’s lead on first place as the Honey Hunters topped the Rockers 5-4 on Friday night in front of a crowd of 2,140 at Truist Point.
High Point (28-10) will enter Saturday’s game with a three-game lead over second place Gastonia (25-13).
Gastonia took an early 2-0 lead after scoring twice in the top of the first. Jack Reinheimer led off the game with an infield single, was sacrificed to second and took third on another infield single by Joseph Rosa. With two outs, Rayder Ascanio tripled to right field to score both runners and put Gastonia ahead 2-0.
High Point scored three times in the third, getting to Gastonia starter Marcus Walden after two hitless innings. Chris Proctor singled to start the frame and moved to second when Giovanny Alfonzo’s line drive deflected off the glove of shortstop Reinheimer. Ben Aklinski doubled to score Proctor and Jerry Downs hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Michael Russell who had reached on a fielder’s choice. Quincy Latimore’s double brought home Aklinski and gave High Point a 3-2 lead.
Gastonia tied the game at 4-4 in the fourth when Reece Hampton singled and stole second and would score on an infield error. The ‘Hunters went up 5-4 in the fifth on a solo homer from Herlis Rodriguez, his second of the year.
The Rockers tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh. Alfonzo reached on a fielder’s choice and a walk to Russell put runners at first and second. Aklinski then sent a 3-1 pitch through the hole at short and Alfonzo beat the throw to the plate for the tying run. Gastonia took a 5-4 lead I the eighth when Joseph Rosa walked, stole second, went to third on an error and scored on a single by Luis Castro.
The Rockers had an opportunity in the bottom of the ninth when Alfonzo led off with a single and Russell was walked to put runners on first and second. But Gastonia closer Jesus Balaguer got Ben Aklinski to line out to left before pinch-hitter Yuta Okazaki hit into a ground out and Latimore struck out for the final out.
“We had every hitter up in the ninth inning that we wanted,” said Rockers manager Jamie Keefe. “It’s just one loss. We get to do this again tomorrow.”
High Point and Gastonia will play the second game of this three-game series on Saturday at 6:35 at Truist Point.
NOTES: Friday’s game marked the first of 34 games between these two clubs in 2022 and the first of 17 at Truist Point . . . The Rockers have won 13 of their last 16 games dating back to May 17.