HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point Rockers blasted three home runs and set a franchise record with their seventh straight win in posting a 10-7 victory over the Lexington Legends Thursday night at Truist Point. Given the Rockers’ three-game sweep of West Virginia earlier in the week, High Point has now swept consecutive opponents for the first time in team history.
Michael Martinez homered for the second straight game and Stephen Cardullo finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle as High Point pounded out 14 hits. Martinez and Cardullo hit back-to-back homers in the second inning and Craig Stem earned his third win of the year by striking out seven and holding the Legends to four runs over six innings.
“We made the pitches when we needed to,” said Rockers manager Jamie Keefe. “Stemmer did a good job of holding them at bay.”
Stem, who struggled early in the season, has been on point in recent starts, finishing with seven strikeouts, one off his season high.
“It took some adjustment to the Trackman (automated ball-strike system) but I’m just going out and having fun now,” said Stem.
Martinez, who has played seven seasons in the Major Leagues, is grateful for the opportunity he has been given to play at High Point.
“I’m just doing whatever I can to help the team,” said Martinez. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to play every day and I want to show (Keefe) by doing whatever I can to help.”
High Point jumped out in front with two runs in the first inning. Johnny Field led off the frame with a single and moved to second on a ground out by Jerry Downs. Stephen Cardullo singled up the middle to score Field before Stuart Levy blooped a single into left, moving Cardullo to third. Giovanny Alfonzo then doubled into the corner to plate Cardullo and give the Rockers a 2-0 lead.
In the second, Jay Gonzalez drew a walk off Lexington starter Shawn Blackwell (5-6) before stealing second and moving to third when the throw from catcher Pete Yorgen sailed into center field. Jared Mitchell walked to put runners on first and second. Field then bounced one back to Blackwell who threw to first to retire field while Gonzalez scored. Martinez then pounded a homer to right, his second in two days, to score Mitchell ahead of him and put the Rockers up 5-0. Downs followed immediately with his 14th homer of the year and the Rockers found themselves with a 6-0 lead.
“I was just waiting for a good pitch to hit,” said Martinez on his second homer as a Rocker.
Tillman Pugh homered to lead off the fourth for Lexington to cut the lead to 6-1. In the top of the sixth, Ben Aklinski hit a one out triple and scored on an infield out by Pugh to cut the deficit to 6-2.
High Point added four runs in the sixth to take a 10-1 lead. The big blow was Cardullo’s three-run homer to left while Field also added an RBI single.
Lexington mounted a comeback with two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth. Brandon Phillips and Keon Barnum hit back-to-back doubles to account for one run while Barnum scored on a sac fly by Michael Choice. Ben Aklinski hit a two-run homer for the Legends in the eighth to help pull Lexington within three runs at 10-7.
Kyle Halbohn came on and earned his sixth save of the year and marked his fifth consecutive successful save opportunity.
Stem retired the first eight hitters he faced before giving up a single to Chris Fornaci with two outs in the third.
High Point finished its 12-game homestand with a 9-3 record and will now continue the series with the Legends in Lexington. The three-game series starts Friday night at 7:05 p.m. Lexington Legends Ballpark.