HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point Rockers built a big lead early in the game then held on in the final innings in taking an 11-9 decision from the Staten Island FerryHawks in the first game of the series on Tuesday night at Truist Point.
Ryan Grotjohn blasted a pair of home runs for the Rockers to lead the way in a game that saw a total of seven home runs, four by Staten Island and three by the Rockers.
The Rockers shortstop drove in four runs on the night with a three-run homer in the third and a solo shot in the sixth. He also walked twice and scored three runs. Michael Martinez drove in three runs on a solo homer and a two-run single as High Point starter Justin Nicolino improved to 2-0 on the mound.
Ricardo Cespedes blasted a solo homer off Nicolino to lead off the second inning and put the FerryHawks on the scoreboard, 1-0.
The Rockers answered in the third inning with a five-run outburst. Staten Island starter Ivan Pineyro (L, 3-3), a former Rocker, hit D.J. Burt with a pitch to start the frame and then allowed a single to Michael Russell. Grotjohn went the opposite way for a three-run homer, his ninth of the season. Beau Taylor followed the blast with a double before Pineyro walked Daikan Yoh and Ben Aklinski to load the bases. Martinez then hit a two-run single to right to complete the inning and give the Rockers a 5-1 lead.
High Point added four more runs in the bottom of the fourth, using a sac fly from Taylor, a two-run single from Yoh and an RBI double from Aklinski to take the lead to 9-1.
Staten Island used the long ball in the fifth with Mike Wilson leading off with a solo shot, and Angel Aguilar hitting a two-run homer following a Nicolino walk to Ricardo Cespedes. That pulled the FerryHawks to within five at 9-4.
Nicolino (W, 2-0) exited after the fifth with a 9-4 lead, having allowed eight hits and four runs while walking one and striking out five.
Martinez’s homer in the fifth put the Rockers up 10-4 before Grotjohn hit his second homer of the game, and his 10th of the season, leading off the sixth as the Rockers extended their lead to 11-4.
Austin Ross put Staten Island down in order in the sixth but allowed two runs in the seventh as the ‘Hawks cut the lead to 11-6. Lefty Bryce Hensley pitched a shutout eighth, thanks to a nifty play at the plate on a Yoh to Grotjohn to Taylor relay that cut down Luis Castro trying to score from first on a double to left by Brandon Pugh.
In the ninth, the ‘Hawks touched High Point’s Kyle Halbohn for three runs, all coming on a three-run homer by ex-Rocker Roldani Baldwin. Ryan Dull came out of the bullpen with one on and two outs and struck out Jack Elliot for the final out of the game in earning his league-leading 13th save of the year.
“We swung the bats well but you can tell we’re tired,” said Rockers manager Jamie Keefe. “We just came off a tough 13-day stretch and Friday night’s (division clinching win) was an emotional game. But it was good to get the series opener and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
Game two of the three-game series is slated for a 12:05 p.m. first pitch at Truist Point on Wednesday.