Rockers sweep Dirty Birds 5/4/23
HIGH POINT, NC – The High Point Rockers squeaked out a down-to-the-wire 4-3 win to pick up a sweep over the Charleston Dirty Birds in an exciting affair from Truist Point on Thursday night. The victory lifts the Rockers to 5-1 on the season and into a first-place tie in the South Division.
The Rockers once again jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first when John Nogowski blasted a no-doubt two-run homer to left field that sent High Point out to a 2-0 edge. Later in the inning following a Zander Wiel free pass, Ben Aklinski slapped a base hit to the outfield that plated a third Rockers run and the home team led 3-0 after a frame.
High Point’s starter, Liam O’Sullivan, who had just signed with the club earlier in the day, worked through five admirable innings. The right-hander’s only blip on the radar was a solo homer off the bat of Luis Roman, who cleared the fence and made the score 3-1 in the fourth.
To his credit, Charleston hurler Kit Scheetz settled in nicely after being roughed up in the first inning, hanging four straight zeroes before being lifted from the ballgame after five innings of work against a sizzling Rockers lineup, holding them in check through the middle innings and provided his team with a chance.
O’Sullivan gave way to Cam Cotter out of the bullpen in the sixth, but the Dirty Birds clawed a little closer when Bobby Bradley demolished a moonshot to make it a 3-2 game after five and a half.
With the Rockers in much need of some insurance down the stretch, Shed Long answered the call, lifting his second home run in as many days to straightaway center field off the batter’s eye and it gave the Rockers a bit of separation and made the score 4-2.
Charleston didn’t go down without a fight, with still some gas left in the tank in the eighth the Dirty Birds loaded the bags against High Point reliever Mickey Jannis. Pinch batter Montrell Marshall whiffed over the top of a fluttering knuckler for out number one, and then Jannis was able to induce a ground ball and the Rockers infield turned a 6-4-3 double play to keep their slim lead intact. It was the fourth double play of the ballgame spun by the Rockers infield, tying a club record.
In the ninth, more drama followed. Jameson McGrane entered the fret looking to collect his first save of the campaign, and it appeared he would do so rather easily, fanning the first two hitters he saw. However, down to their final out, the Dirty Birds found one last gasp. Two straight singles brought up Dwight Smith Jr., who ripped a liner down the right field line. One run crossed the plate, but a perfect throw to the cut-off man from Ben Aklinski allowed Michael Russell to fire a strike to the plate, cutting down the game-tying run and preserving the win for the Rockers.
The 4-3 final pushes High Point into a first-place tie with the Gastonia Honey Hunters atop the South Division. At 5-1, High Point has now tied their best start in franchise history with the 2021 club. The Rockers will get set for the third stanza of the home stand tomorrow night when they welcome Frederick for the first ever meeting between the two squads. The first pitch is tabbed for 6:35 as High Point will send former big leaguer Ben Braymer to the bump for his second start of 2023.