HIGH POINT, N.C. – On a momentous day for the High Point Rockers, Southern Maryland spoiled the fun with a 4-2 win in front of a crowd of 4,001 at Truist Point on Sunday.
Sunday’s game marked the final contest for High Point centerfielder Johnny Field who announced prior to the game that he was retiring from baseball following the contest. It also marked the first professional appearance in nine years for starting pitcher Chris Rollins who signed with the Rockers earlier in the day. And High Point’s attendance was the third-highest in Truist Point history.
Field had a game worthy of a career that included time in the Major Leagues with both Minnesota and Tampa. He led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer to put the Rockers up 1-0 and finished the day with three hits.
With two starting pitchers sidelined with injuries and three others who have had their contracts purchased by other organizations, the Rockers were thin on starting pitchers. They turned to Rollins, 35, who had last pitched in the Atlantic League with the Camden River Sharks in 2013. Despite the nine years between professional appearances, Rollins kept the Blue Crabs hitless through the first four innings. Southern Maryland’s Jack Sundberg managed the first hit, a single, to lead off the fifth. After retiring the next two hitters, Rollins was relieved by Kyle Mott who walked Jared Walker and then gave up a three-run homer to Alex Crosby to put the ‘Crabs up 3-1.
High Point’s Tyler Ladendorf hit a solo homer leading off the bottom of the seventh that pulled the Rockers to within two at 4-2. But Southern Maryland relievers Bradley Roney and Endrys Briceno held the Rockers hitless over the final two innings.
“We couldn’t ask Chris to do any more than he did,” said Rockers manger Jamie Keefe. “He kept putting zeroes up on the board. In that situation (runner on third, two outs in the fifth) we wanted to put the ball in the hands of one of our guys and it was one pitch (that did the damage).”
Rollins received a call from Rockers pitching coach Frank Viola late in the week asking if he was interested in pitching a game for the Rockers. Rollins, who runs a baseball instructional academy in New Jersey, has stayed active on the mound, pitching in the Tri County League in South Jersey.
“I had to take a lot of breathes to try and slow it down a little bit,” said Rollins. “I just tried to treat it like one of my baseball games back home. Not let it get too big or go too fast for me. These aren’t the same hitters I’m used to facing. These guys are among the best in the world and grooving a 3-1 fastball isn’t always the best idea. I’d rather walk a guy and then do damage control.”
Rollins finished with four strikeouts and five walks while allowing just one hit and one run in 4.2 innings of work. Mott (L, 1-1) allowed three runs, three walks and two hits in 1.1 innings.
Field, a native of Las Vegas, played collegiately at Arizona and helped the Wildcats to a College World Series appearance. A fifth round draft pick in 2013 by Tampa Bay, he reached the Major Leagues with the Rays in 2018 and finished that campaign with the Twins.
“I told Jamie at the start of the year that I would give it a half season and see if I could sign with an organization,” said Field. “I had a blast, had a great time with the guys in the clubhouse. But I’m 30 now and I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in the game. Now I’m ready for what’s next.”
The loss puts the Rockers at 38-27 with one game remaining in the first half of the season. The Rockers will play at Gastonia on Monday at 6:15 p.m. to close the first half.
High Point returns home to face Gastonia on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. at Truist Point.