HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point Rockers rallied late but came up short in a 5-3 loss to Gastonia on Saturday night at Truist Point.
The Rockers trailed 5-1 in the ninth and were facing Gastonia’s ace closer Jesus Balaguer. Jerry Downs opened the inning with a single and moved to third on a double by Quincy Latimore. Balaguer then unleased a wild pitch that scored Downs with Latimore moving to third. Ladendorf lined a single to left to score Latimore and make it a 5-3 game. But Balaguer fanned Jay Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Cesar Trejo before Giovanny Alfonzo’s sinking liner to center was caught by a sliding Jake Skole to end the threat and cement Gastonia’s 5-3 win.
High Point had taken a 1-0 lead in the first when Zander Wiel walked, moved to second on a single by Downs and scored on Latimore’s RBI single. The Honey Hunters tied the game in the fourth on an infield single by Reece Hampton and an RBI double by Zach Jarrett.
Gastonia nudged across a run in the sixth off reliever Junior Rincon (L, 0-1). Hampton, who scored three of Gastonia’s five runs, started the inning with a double and scored on a sac fly by Joseph Rosa to put Gastonia ahead 2-1.
Following High Point’s single run in the second, the Rockers managed just one more hit until the ninth inning, that being an infield single by Ben Aklinski in the third that was erased when Downs hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
Gastonia scored three times in the eighth inning off High Point reliever Kyle Mott. Hampton drew a walk then scored from first on a double by Jack Reinheimer. Rosa followed with a two-run homer to put the Honey Hunters ahead 5-1.
High Point starter Ivan Pineyro went five innings and allowed just three hits and one run while striking out three. Rincon allowed the lone run on two hits and struck out two in his two innings of work.
Gastonia starter Mason McAlister (W, 2-0) went five innings and allowed three hits and one run while walking two and striking out two.
The Rockers are now 3-13 in the second half while Gastonia improved to 14-2. The Rockers are 42-40 overall and tied with Kentucky for the top spot in the wildcard race in the Atlantic League.
The two clubs face-off in the final game of the three-game series on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. at Truist Point.
NOTES: Two Rockers pitchers retired following Saturday night’s game . . . Johnny Barbato and Austin Glorius each announced the ending of their career . . . Former Norther Guilford High School pitcher and NC State alum Cam Cotter made his professional debut on Saturday, throwing a scoreless ninth inning for the Rockers . . . He struck out Hampton for his first professional strikeout.