HIGH POINT, N.C. – Zander Wiel belted two long home runs and drove in three runs in leading the High Point Rockers to a 4-1 win over Southern Maryland on Sunday at Truist Point. Starting pitcher Ivan Pineyro went eight innings and struck out seven to earn his third win of the season.
The win snapped High Point’s 10-game losing streak and marked the 950th career victory for Rockers manager Jamie Keefe.
Southern Maryland took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when second baseman Michael Wielansky was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a ground ball before scoring on an RBI single by Zach Collier. But Pineyro (W, 3-1) then shut down the Blue Crabs, retiring 11 straight hitters as the High Point offense got in gear.
With one out in the third, centerfielder Ben Aklinski drew a walk before Wiel hit his first homer of the day, his 19th of the season, to give the Rockers a 2-1 lead. Blue Crabs’ starter Mitch Lambson (L, 5-5) put the Rockers down in order in the fourth before Wiel launched his second homer of the game and 20th of the year to put High Point ahead 3-1 in the fifth. Two batters later, Jerry Downs hit his 11th homer of the season to extend the Rockers’ lead to 4-1.
“Our sticks needed to wake up,” said Wiel following the game. “Jerry Downs had a big swing, Ivan pitched great and he really set the tone. Ivan going eight strong innings was the story of the day. When a guy throws like that, the offense wants to do all it can to do its part. But he didn’t need much help today.”
Pineyro allowed only one Southern Maryland base runner to advance beyond second after the first inning. Collier doubled with one out in the sixth and advanced to third on a ground out but was stranded there. Pineyro scattered five hits and allowed one run and did not issue a walk. Ryan Dull pitched the ninth and struck out two in earning his fifth save of the season.
Lambson went the distance for Southern Maryland, throwing eight innings and allowing six hits while walking four and striking out four.
“The curse is broken,” joked Keefe following the game. Despite the home runs, Keefe laid all the credit for the win at the feet of Pineyro.
“It’s unreal what Ivan has done since Junior (Rincon) arrived,” said Keefe. “They know each other and they’ve talked a lot about pitching off the fastball. Ivan hadn’t broken 90 (MPH) since he’s been here but today he was consistently between 89 and 92. And to go eight strong innings against the best team in the league, that was a big win for us.”
The Rockers now hit the road and will play at Lexington Tuesday through Thursday. High Point will return to Truist Point on Friday, July 22 to start a three-game series with Gastonia.
NOTES: Jerry Downs’ home run in the fifth inning came on the same day that his younger brother, Jeter Downs, hit his first Major League home run for Boston at Yankee Stadium . . . To snap the 10-game losing streak, the Rockers burned sage candles in the clubhouse prior to the game to remove any curses . . . The win was the 950th of Jamie Keefe’s professional managerial career, now in its 20th on-field season . . . Wiel now has five multi-homer games this season.