LEXINGTON, Ky. – High Point’s Zander Wiel blasted a pair of home runs and pitcher Craig Stem won for the first time in 2023 as the Rockers opened a three-game series in Lexington with a 10-3 win at Counter Clocks Field. Stem, High Point’s Opening Night starter, had made just three appearances all season due to injury.
Stem, 33, suffered a broken hand just two innings into that Opening Night start. After returning on July 3, he made two starts before suffering another injury that kept him sidelined for another month. He went five innings vs. the Counter Clocks on Tuesday, allowing just four hits and walking one while striking out five. He is now 1-1 on the season while registering his 14th win as a Rocker and his 30th all-time Atlantic League win.
Shed Long, Jr. drilled the first pitch of the game over the fence in right center off Lexington starter Alsis Herrera to give the Rockers an early 1-0 lead. After Herrera induced a fly out by D.J. Burt, Ben Aklinski lined a single to left and then scored from first on a Quincy Latimore double.
Herrera continued to pitch himself into trouble in the second. After retiring the first two hitters, Herrera walked Ryan Grotjohn , allowed a single to Long, Jr. and then walked Burt to load the bases. Aklinski’s ground rule double scored two and Latimore followed with a single to left to bring home Burt and Aklinski for a 6-0 lead.
Lexington put up its first run in the fourth when J.C. Encarnacion singled, moved to second on a walk to Logan Brown and then stole third. From there, he scored on a ground out by Aldenis Sanchez to cut Lexington’s deficit to 6-1.
Reliever Victor Lopez allowed a solo homer to Wiel for a 7-1 lead in the fifth before Ryan Grotjohn hit a solo homer in the sixth off Patrick Ledet for an 8-1 Rockers advantage.
Jeremy Rhoades took over for Stem in the sixth and allowed three consecutive singles to load the bases. Brown brought home one run with a sacrifice fly before Rhoades induced Mitch Ghelfi into a 6-3 double play with Grotjohn making the play up the middle.
Wiel’s second homer of the night, and his 21st of the year, brought home Beau Taylor ahead of him and put the Rockers up 10-2 in the seventh. Encarnacion hit a solo homer in the top of the ninth to complete the scoring.
Kyle Halbohn went the final two innings backing up Rhoades and struck out one.
The Rockers remain deadlocked with Gastonia in the Atlantic League’s South Division. The two clubs share first place with identical 19-12 second half records and each club is 60-34 for the full season. The Rockers stand at 26 games over .500 for the year, tying their high water mark in franchise history.
Game two of the three-game set will take place on Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. at Counter Clocks Field. The game will be live streamed on FLO Baseball and also available on the Mixlr app.
NOTES: D.J. Burt reached base for the 49th consecutive game, drawing a second inning walk and a pair of singles. The longest streak in the Atlantic League since 2019 is a 50-game streak in 2022 by York’s Carlos Franco. The longest on-base streak in MLB this year is 37 games by Jurickson Profar of the Colorado Rockies… Burt once had a 67-game on-base streak when he reached base in 56 consecutive games for Idaho Falls in 2015 and then was on-base in the first seven games of 2016 while playing for the Lexington Legends… Craig Stem tied Bryce Hensley for the Rockers franchise record for career wins with 14… It was also Stem’s 30th Atlantic League after he previously pitched for New Britain and So. Maryland before coming to High Point… He becomes just the 47th pitcher to achieve 30 wins in the Atlantic League… High Point and Gastonia each became the first ALPB clubs to 60 wins with victories on Tuesday… The Honey Hunters overcame a 5-1 deficit to walk-off York on a Steven Moya RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.