CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The High Point Rockers won their seventh straight game, breaking out the big bats while also receiving a superior pitching performance in routing Charleston 8-2 on Wednesday night at Appalachian Power Park.
The Rockers improved to 22-8 on the season. Coupled with Gastonia’s loss to Lancaster on Wednesday, High Point now has a 1.5 game lead over the Honey Hunters for first place in the Atlantic League South Division. This is the Rockers’ best 30-game start to a season after going 18-12 in 2019 and 15-15 in 2022.
The Rockers bashed 13 hits including four doubles while holding the Dirty Birds to just four safeties. Ben Aklinski and Giovanny Alfonzo each had three hits with Aklinski adding a three-run homer.
But the story of the night might have been on the mound. High Point starter Neil Uskali (2-1) made his first appearance since April 30 after spending time on the injured list. Uskali went six innings, held the Dirty Birds to three hits and one walk while striking out three as the Rockers built an insurmountable 7-0 advantage. High Point’s John Hayes came out of the bullpen to throw a scoreless seventh inning before the Rockers turned the game over to a couple of professional debutantes.
With lefthanded pitcher Justin Nicolino signing with the Cincinnati Reds earlier in the day, manager Jamie Keefe and pitching coach Frank Viola were seeking reinforcements for the bullpen. They landed on Kyle Mott and Colt Webb, a pair of recent college pitchers. Webb, who just finished his college career locally at the University of Charleston (W.Va.), came on and pitched the eighth inning and while he allowed two runs, he showed promise after having gone 9-2 as a college starter this spring. Mott, a recent North Carolina pitcher, was impressive in pitching the ninth, striking out two in making his first professional appearance.
High Point initiated the scoring when Aklinski extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a lead-off homer in the top of the fourth, staking the Rockers to a 1-0 lead.
The Rockers put up a five-spot in the fifth inning, all coming with two outs. Alfonzo started the rally with a line drive single to center before Charleston’s Derrick Adams (1-2) walked Michael Russell. Aklinski doubled to left to score both runners. Jerry Downs followed with a single that scored Aklinski. Quincy Latimore drew a walk from Adams before Zander Wiel delivered another two-run double to put High Point up 6-0.
High Point added another run in the sixth for a 7-0 lead when Mike Gulino walked and scored when Alfonzo doubled into the left field corner.
Johnny Field singled home Jerry Downs in the seventh to give the Rockers a 7-0 lead.
With the loss, Charleston falls to 13-17 on the season.
High Point and Charleston will conclude their three-game series on Thursday night at 6:35 p.m. at Appalachian Power Park. The Rockers will then stay on the road and head north to Staten Island for a four-game set starting Friday and running through Memorial Day.
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