HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point Rockers rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth but came up short in a 6-5 loss to Gastonia in front of 2,704 fans on Saturday night at Truist Point. The Rockers loaded the bases in the ninth and plated two runs on Zander Wiel’s double before Roldani Baldwin’s final fly ball was caught by Gastonia centerfielder Jake Skole.
The Rockers are now 59-54 overall and 20-27 in the second half of the Atlantic League season. The Rockers are 1.5 games out of the Wild Card slot.
The Rockers went up 1-0 in the bottom of the first when Logan Morrison drew a walk and scored on Baldwin’s RBI single. Gastonia scored four times in the second off High Point starter Liam O’Sullivan (L, 3-5). Reece Hampton picked up an RBI single before Herlis Rodiguez hit a three-run homer to put the Honey Hunters up 4-1.
After the second inning, O’Sullivan shut down Gastonia’s offense, not allowing a hit again until Emmanuel Tapia led off the seventh inning with a double.
The Rockers cut into the 4-1 deficit with two runs in the sixth. Baldwin doubled with one out, Tyler Ladendorf walked and both runners scored on Ben Aklinski’s double to make it a 4-3 contest.
Gastonia added a run in the eighth without the benefit of a base hit. High Point reliever Gabriel Castellanos walked Cole Freeman before retiring the next two hitters. With Freeman on second following a wild pitch, Castellanos walked Hampton and hit Tapia with a pitch to load the bases. Junior Rincon was called in from the bullpen and walked Stuart Levy to force in a run as Gastonia went up 5-3.
The Honey Hunters went with ace closer Jesus Balaguer in the ninth. Jay Gonzalez led off with an infield single and Giovanny Alfonzo struck out. Michael Russell singled before Morrison lined out to center. Balaguer then walked Latimore to load the bases, leading to Wiel’s two-run double before Baldwin was retired for the final out.
Gastonia starter Ian McKinney (W, 6-3) earned the win, going six innings and allowing five hits and three runs while walking five and striking out two. Balaguer earned his 23rd save of the season.
High Point and Gastonia will play the rubber match of the three-game series on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. at Truist Point. The Rockers will send Ivan Pineyro (5-3, 3.48 ERA) to the mound to face Dakota Chalmers (1-1, 5.00).