HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point Rockers completed a three-game sweep of the Charleston Dirty Birds on Thursday, posting a 7-5 decision at Truist Point. The Rockers have now won three straight and 13 of their last 14 games to improve to 28-9 in the season.
High Point’s lead in the Atlantic League’s South Division is now at four games after Gastonia’s 5-0 loss at home to Long Island on Thursday night dropped the Honey Hunters to 24-13.
The Rockers hit five doubles as part of their 12-hit attack with Jerry Downs driving in a pair of runs and Chris Proctor using his two doubles to account for three RBI.
High Point scored twice in the bottom of the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. Michael Russell led off with a single and Ben Aklinski and Downs hit consecutive doubles with Downs picking up both RBI. High Point extended its lead to 5-0 in the third when Proctor clubbed a two-run double and Giovanny Alfonzo knocked in a run with a single.
Charleston scored twice in the fourth on Engel Beltre’s solo homer and a sac fly from Scott Kelly. The Dirty Birds made it a 5-4 game with two more runs in the fourth, using an RBI double from Nick Longhi and scoring a run on a wild pitch.
Trailing 5-4 in the sixth, Charleston tied the game when Kelly doubled to lead off the inning, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a Rocker error to knot the game at 5-5. But that would be the last run Charleston would score.
High Point won the game with a pair of runs in the seventh. Michael Martinez led off with a single and moved to second on a walk to Liam Scafariello. A pair of wild pitches would bring Martinez around to score and break the tie. Proctor’s second double of the night scored Scafariello to put High Point ahead 7-5.
High Point starter Gavin Heltemes was the second consecutive Rocker starting pitcher to make his professional debut, following in the footsteps of Colt Webb on Wednesday. Heltemes, a former Georgia Gwinnett hurler, signed with the Rockers Thursday afternoon and was handed the starting assignment vs. the Dirty Birds. He pitched 4.1 innings and allowed nine hits, four runs and struck out two but did not factor into the decision. John Hayes (2-0) pitched two innings and allowed one run on one hit in earning the win. Nathan Bates pitched a scoreless eighth and Chasen Bradford earned his sixth save of the year.
The Rockers will now prepare for a three-game visit from the Gastonia Honey Hunter in what will be a preview of the South Division playoff race. The Rockers enter the series with a four-game game lead over the second place Honey Hunters.
NOTES: Thursday’s game marked the final game of Charleston’s nine games at Truist Point this season . . . The Rockers have three more series at Charleston . . . The Rockers open a three-game home series with Gastonia on Friday at 6:35 p.m. . . . It will be the first of 17 games at Truist Point between the Rockers and Honey Hunters . . . High Point will also play 17 games in Gastonia, the first scheduled for Friday, June 10.