HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point Rockers broke out all the offensive firepower they could muster and blasted the Gastonia Honey Hunters 14-4 on Tuesday night at Truist Point. The win put the Rockers two games ahead of Gastonia in the fight for the Atlantic League’s South Division second half pennant.
“That’s the way to start a series,” said Rockers manager Jamie Keefe. “Our destiny is in our hands and we’ve got to play well against these guys and against (South Division rival) West Virginia this weekend.”
The Rockers put on a power display right from the start. Johnny Field led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer, the fifth time this season he’s started the Rockers off with a home run. Michael Martinez followed with a double and then Quincy Latimore took Gastonia starter Spencer Bivens deep to left for a 3-0 High Point lead.
Gastonia flexed its muscles in the top of the second. Rocker starter Craig Stem walked lead-off hitter Joshua Sale and DH Emmanuel Tapia then blasted a homer to right to cut High Point’s lead to 3-2. Shortstop Ryan Jackson then tripled and scored on an infield ground out by Ermindo Escobar to tie the game at 3-3.
The Rockers continued the offensive onslaught in the second, scoring four times for a 7-3 lead. Jared Mitchell drew a walk and stole second before scoring on a single by Martinez. Latimore followed with a single and Jerry Downs was walked to load the bases. Stephen Cardullo lifted a high fly ball to left that both Gastonia shortstop Jackson and left fielder Mike Papi lost in the lights, allowing all three runners to score and leaving Cardullo on second with a three-run double.
“We’ve needed a bases loaded two out double for about two weeks and we got it tonight,” said Keefe.
High Point extended its lead to 8-3 in the fourth when Martinez walked, moved to second on a walk to Latimore and scored following consecutive groundouts by Downs and Cardullo.
Gastonia made it an 8-4 game with a solo run in the seventh off High Point reliever Joe Johnson. Boog Powell doubled, stole third and scored on a sac fly by Mike Osinski.
The Rockers went ahead 10-4 in the seventh on RBI singles by Cardullo and Field. High Point reliever Ryan Dull set the Honey Hunters down in order in the eighth before the Rockers added four more runs in the bottom of the eighth. Martinez and Cardullo each hit doubles and James McOwen delivered the big blow with a three-run homer.
High Point starter Craig Stem pitched six strong innings, allowing just five hits while walking five and striking out five.
“I’m really proud of Stem,” said Keefe. “He controlled the zone tonight and he was finding his spots.”
Martinez and Latimore each had three hits for the Rockers and Cardullo led High Point with four RBI while McOwen drove in three.
High Point and Gastonia will continue their three-game series on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. at Truist Point.