HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point bullpen put together a solid performance on Saturday night as five pitchers shutout the Long Island Ducks for eight innings as the Rockers won 5-3 at Truist Point in front of a crowd of 1,966.
All told, six Rockers pitchers limited the Ducks to five hits while striking out six to give High Point its first win of the second half of the Atlantic League season. And for the second time this season, center fielder Johnny Field made a diving catch to secure a Rockers’ win.
“We did a good job of putting the ball in play,” said Rockers manager Jamie Keefe. “Jerry Downs hit that little flare to left and you saw what happened there.”
What happened was the Rockers scored three times in a highly unusual sixth inning.
Field tripled to lead off the inning and Long Island opted to have lefty reliever Chris Reed intentionally walk Stephen Cardullo in order to face the lefthanded hitting Downs. Downs lofted a fly ball into shallow left field that Long Island’s L.J. Mazzilli raced after and dove for but was unable to make the catch as Field scored. Mazzilli picked up the ball and threw wildly into the infield, allowing Cardullo to come around and score from first and Downs to wind up on third. Reed then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Downs with the third run of the inning and give the Rockers a 4-0 lead.
The Rockers went with a total bullpen approach to the game after scheduled starter Mitch Atkins tweaked his back and Keefe opted to give him the day off. Newly acquired Neil Uskali made his first start as a Rocker and threw two shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out one. He was followed by another newcomer, Chase Ingram, who threw a hitless third inning followed by two scoreless innings from Ryan Chaffee. Jonathon Crawford and John Hayes continued to shutout the Ducks through eight when Kyle Halbohn came on. A hit batter and a walk was followed by a two-run double by Long Island’s Ryan Jackson. Jackson scored on a wild pitch to make it a 5-3 game.
Halbohn settled down and retired the next two hitters. With two down, pinch-hitter Daniel Fields lined a potential extra base hit into the left-center gap that Field tracked down, sprawling across the outfield to make the spectacular catch.
High Point was the first team to score when it tallied a single run in the fifth. James McOwen singled to right and was followed by Michael Martinez who also singled through the right side. Giovanny Alfonzo sent a ground ball to second and the Ducks were able force Martinez at second but McOwen scored and Alfonzo was safe at first on the fielder’s choice.
In the seventh, High Point extended its lead to 5-0 when Giovanny Alfonzo walked, moved to second when J.R. DiSarcina was hit by a pitch advanced to third when Field drew a walk to load the bases. Cardullo legged out an infield single that allowed Alfonzo to score.
Chaffee (2-1) earned the win with two innings of work, allowing one hit while striking out three. Long Island starter Vin Mazzaro (1-3) went five innings and allowed one run on three hits while fanning two.
Cardullo and Downs each had a pair of hits as the Rockers notched seven on the night.
High Point and Long Island will conclude their three-game series on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. at Truist Point.