HIGH POINT, NC - For the second time in as many tries, the New Britain Bees have claimed a critical series against the High Point Rockers.
Trailing 6-4 heading into the ninth, the Bees rode a three-run home run by Jason Rogers, his second of the afternoon, to take a 7-6 thriller on the road against the Rockers, who are now just two games ahead of the Bees in the Liberty Division.
For the Bees, none of their runs came cheap.
New Britain seized an early lead thanks to a solo home run by Rogers to dead center field in the top of the first, and another by Zach Collier in the top of the second. The Rockers quickly responded with a home run of their own, using a solo shot to left by Richie Shaffer to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Shaffer’s bomb ignited High Point’s offense, which pushed across a pair of runs in the third and fourth innings to build a 5-3 lead. Stephen Cardullo continued the long ball barrage with a two-run blast in the bottom of the third to put the Rockers ahead 3-2, and after Mike Carp tied the game with a solo homer in the fourth, Shaffer smacked his second of the day and 22nd of the season to put High Point back in front 5-3.
New Britain starter Akeel Morris settled down after Shaffer’s go-ahead home run, and ended his day after tossing six innings and allowing five runs on eight hits. Following Morris’ exit, the long balls resumed with a solo blast by Logan Moore in the top of the seventh, pulling the Bees to within 5-4.
Through 6 ½ innings, all nine runs had been scored via home runs, with seven balls leaving the yard.
That changed in the bottom of the seventh, when the Rockers took their two-run lead right back off Brandon Fry thanks to a sacrifice fly off the bat of Hector Gomez, scoring Cardullo to put High Point in front 6-4. The score held until the top of the ninth, when the Bees decided to resume the home run party that began way back in the first inning.
With Ryan Kelly on the mound looking to seal the win for the Rockers, Rando Moreno bounced a one-out ground-rule double over the right field wall to bring the tying run to the plate. Bijan Rademacher followed with a walk, and was pulled for pinch runner Darren Ford, which proved to be a critical move by New Britain manager Mauro Gozzo.
The next batter Ozzie Martinez grounded out to shortstop, but the speed of Ford negated a double play and forced Michael Russell to settle for the force at first, putting runners on second and third with two outs.
Down to their last out, the Bees were saved by their fifth home run of the day, and the second by Rogers, who drilled a three-run blast to left to put New Britain ahead 7-6.
A deflated Rockers squad put the tying run on base in the bottom of the ninth, but Jim Fuller held New Britain’s lead and earned his 18th save of the season.
Rogers finished the day 2-for-5 with four RBI, while Carp, Collier and Jared James all enjoyed multi-hit games as well. The Bees will go for the series sweep on Thursday night, with a chance to get back to .500 on the season.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com