HIGH POINT, N.C. – For the High Point Rockers and Gastonia Honey Hunters on Sunday, a game of home run derby would not suffice. Instead, the two Atlantic League South Division rivals engaged in an enhanced version, called Grand Slam Derby. At the end of the day, the Rockers prevailed 14-13 at Truist Point.
Gastonia hit two grand slams in the game, the Rockers just one. The Honey Hunters’ Braxton Davidson, who hit a grand slam on Saturday vs. the Rockers, added a second on Sunday along with Eric De La Rosa. High Point’s Ben Aklinski blasted a grand slam of his own in the sixth inning.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen three grand slams in a game before,” said Rockers manager Jamie Keefe.
Aklinski had six RBI for the Rockers while Davidson finished with seven RBI and De La Rosa drove in five runs for the Honey Hunters. Four Honey Hunters managed three hits apiece while High Point was led by Ryan Grotjohn with three base hits.
Gastonia scored first, taking a 1-0 lead in the first when Johnni Turbo led off with a single, and scored on a single by Davidson. The Rockers answered in the bottom half of the first when Grotjohn delivered an RBI single and Brian Parreira drew a bases loaded walk as High Point went up 2-1.
Davidson, who hit a grand slam on Saturday night, then hit his second in as many games, clearing the bases with two outs in the second inning as part of a five-run rally by the Honey Hunters who took a 6-2 lead.
The score remained that way until the Rockers erupted for six runs in the fifth. Grotjohn drove in one with a single, Aklinski hit a two-run triple and Parreira had an RBI sing. Moments later, Emmanuel Tapia smacked his first homer as a Rocker, lining a two-run shot over the fence in left to regain the lead for High Point at 8-6.
In the sixth, the Rockers put up another six spot. Taylor singled in one run before Aklinski unloaded his grand slam. Tapia, who had hit a solo homer in the fifth, singled in the sixth and scored on a Michael Martinez double as the Rockers went ahead 14-6.
But that lead wasn’t safe for long. De La Rosa’s grand slam in the seventh pulled the Honey Hunters to within four runs at 14-10. After the Rockers went down in order in the seventh, Rockers manager Jamie Keefe sent Jameson McGrane to the mound in the eighth. Gastonia put together four hits, a walk and a sac bunt to score three more runs and pull to 14-13 before McGrane fanned the final two batters of the inning.
The Rockers sent Dull to the mound in the ninth and he retired Gastonia in order to earn his 12th save of the year.
“That’s a dog fight between two really competitive teams,” said Keefe. “We were cruising with an eight-run lead and before you can breathe, it’s a one run game. That’s a good ball club over there (referring to Gastonia). We’ll take the series win. We got a W and we’ll move on.”
The Rockers will be off on Monday, July 10 before starting a three-game homestand with the Staten Island FerryHawks on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at Truist Point.
NOTES: Three of the four home runs hit on Sunday were grand slams . . . Emmanuel Tapia’s solo homer was the only non-grand slam . . . Shed Long, Jr. reached base with three walks and a hit to extend his on-base streak to a league-best 31 games . . . The combined 27 runs are the most in an ALPB game this season, surpassing Spire City’s 18-8 win over Gastonia on July 5.