HIGH POINT, N.C. – High Point’s Ben Aklinski was the man of the hour for the second time in 48 hours.
After lining a single to the leftfield wall to give the High Point Rockers a 3-2 walk-off win over Staten Island on Friday, Aklinski went one step further on Sunday, sending a two-run homer over the leftfield wall to give the Rockers a 4-3 walk-off victory on Sunday.
The High Point win, coupled with a loss by the Gastonia Honey Hunters, puts the Rockers in first place in the Atlantic League’s South Division for the first time this season.
The Rockers wound up sweeping all three games from Staten Island with walk-off wins.
“He put us on his shoulders this weekend. He’s playing outstanding,” said Rockers manger Jamie Keefe. “We swung the bats okay. Craig Stem kept us in the ballgame and the bullpen kept us in the ballgame. Anytime you can get the tying run or the winning run to the plate, anything can happen.”
Stem, High Point’s starting pitcher, went seven innings and held the FerryHawks to six hits and three runs while striking out three. He left the game trailing 3-2 and turned it over to lefties Bryce Hensley and Adam Choplick who shutout the ‘Hawks over the final two frames.
The Rockers entered the ninth inning trailing 3-2. Staten Island, in its first year of existence, is yet to win a road game. However, they were three outs away before the fireworks started. High Point catcher Chris Proctor coaxed a 3-2 count into an inning-starting walk. Reliever Chris Nunn then struck out Giovanny Alfonzo and Jay Gonzalez. Aklinski came to the plate to face new reliever Victor Capellan and hit the 0-1 pitch for the game-winning home run.
The two clubs matched runs in the second inning. Staten Island went up 1-0 on a double by Kacy Clemens and a sac fly from Ben Ruta. The Rockers knotted the game in the bottom half with a walk to Zander Wiel and an RBI double from Jerry Downs.
High Point took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third. Alfonzo led off the inning with a walk, moved to second on a sac bunt by Gonzalez and scored on a double by Aklinski. It was Aklinski’s league-leading 12th double of the year.
The FerryHawks touched Stem for two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 3-2 lead. Clemens singled to start the inning and moved to third on a double by Ben Ruta. Mariel Bautista followed with a two-run single to give the FerryHawks their first lead of the game.
The Rockers will have Monday off before heading to Charleston, W.Va. for a three-game series with the Dirty Birds starting on Tuesday night.