GASTONIA, N.C. – The High Point Rockers broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the 10th inning and claimed Game One of the Atlantic League South Division Championship series with a 3-1 win at CaroMont Health Park on Tuesday night.
Shed Long, Jr. reached base on a swinging bunt with one out in the 10th off Gastonia’s Parker Bugg. Long, Jr. stole second to move into scoring position, ahead of a pair of four pitch walks to Ryan Grotjohn and Ben Aklinski. Quincy Latimore hit a ball off the end of his bat that was fielded by Bugg, but Long, Jr.’s head first slide to the plate beat the throw, giving the Rockers a 2-1 lead. Zander Wiel then lifted a sac fly to right that allowed Grotjohn to score from third for a 3-1 advantage.
Ryan Dull put the Honey Hunters down in order on a strikeout and a pair of infield pop outs to preserve the win and give High Point a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
“That was a great win,” said Rockers manager Jamie Keefe. “Everybody played a part in it. We were able to grind it out and that’s what this series is going to be like, we just have to keep grinding them out.”
Neither team could crack the scoreboard through the first three innings. The Rockers broke through first when Quincy Latimore hit a one out single in the fourth off Gastonia starter Gunnar Kines. Wiel followed with a double to left that put two Rockers in scoring position. Beau Taylor singled to right, scoring Latimore, but Wiel was out at home on a strong throw from Gastonia right fielder Eric De La Rosa to catcher Scott Manea.
The Honey Hunters tied the game in the bottom of the fourth with an unearned run off Rockers starter Brandon Leibrandt. Manea’s grounder to short was fielded cleanly by Grotjohn but his throw to first was in the dirt allowing Manea to continue to second. De La Rosa then singled to left and Manea slid in just ahead of the throw from Daikan Yoh.
Leibrandt went seven strong innings, allowing just four hits while walking two and striking out two. Cam Bedrosian started the eighth for the Rockers and put Gastonia down in order, recording a pair of strikeouts.
Kines exited with one out in the seventh, having given up four hits and two walks with three strikeouts. The Honey Hunters’ Bryan Blanton finished off the seventh inning and Nick Wells threw a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.
Graham Spraker came on in the ninth for the Honey Hunters and struck out Latimore before walking Wiel. Beau Taylor hit a sinking line drive to right that De La Rosa made a nifty play on for the second out. Yoh then hit a flare to shallow center that went for a base hit as Wiel motored all the way to third. Rockers manager Jamie Keefe opted to pinch-hit switch hitter Michael Martinez for Diego Goris. But Martinez scorched a grounder to right that was fielded by first baseman David Washington for the third out of the inning.
Jameson McGrane entered in the bottom of the ninth for High Point and allowed a one out single to Manea. McGrane got Braxton Davidson to fly out to right then retired De La Rosa on a grounder to Grotjohn at short.
Game 2 of the South Division Championship series will take place on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. at CaroMont Health Park. Game 3 will take place at Truist Point on Friday at 6:35 p.m. All of the Rockers playoff games are streamed live on FLO Baseball and also available on the Mixlr app.
NOTES: The Rockers won the opening game of an ALPB playoff series for the first time. The Rockers were swept by Long Island in the Division Series in 2019, lost game one at Gastonia in 2022 and dropped the first game of the League Championship series last year at home to Lancaster.