Michael Martinez belted a walkoff grand slam for the High Point Rockers on Wednesday evening to defeat the Lancaster Barnstormers, 5-1, in the middle game of a three-game series at Truist Point.
With Southern Maryland splitting a doubleheader at Staten Island, the Barnstormers are left with a five-game lead over the Blue Crabs with 11 to play. The magic number is six.
In a 1-1 tie, Brandyn Sittinger walked Zander Wiel to open the bottom of the ninth inning. Quincy Latimore rapped a ball past third baseman Trace Loehr and down the left field line for a double. Lancaster intentionally walked former big league slugger Logan Morrison to load the bases, and manager Ross Peeples summoned Chris Proctor as a fifth infielder. Sittinger (1-2) fell behind Martinez at 2-0 before the switch hitting second baseman, who turns 40 in a little more than a week, cracked a ball off the base of the scoreboard beyond the right field wall.
Both starters, Lancaster’s Oscar De La Cruz and High Point’s Mickey Jannis, turned in stellar outings. De La Cruz fanned 10 for the second time this season while allowing only three hits and one run over seven innings. Jannis yielded five hits and one run in 7 2/3 while striking out seven and walking two.
The Barnstormers opened the scoring in the second. Ariel Sandoval led off with a long double off the wall in left center and scored on a single up the middle by Anderson Feliz.
De La Cruz carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the fifth inning. Martinez slapped a ball that tipped off De La Cruz’ glove, and he beat Jake Hoover’s hurried throw. Jay Gonzalez moved Martinez ahead with a sacrifice bunt. Giovanny Alfonzo clubbed a double over Jacob Barfield’s head in right for an RBI double. After Mike Gulino became De La Cruz’ seventh strikeout victim, Michael Russell banged a single into right. Barfield dug it up quickly and gunned Alfonzo down at the plate for the final out.
Jannis departed after a leadoff single by Jake Hoover and two-out walk to Trayvon Robinson in the eighth. Ryan Dull (7-1) retired Andretty Cordero on a fly out to end the inning and allowed only a two-out double by Barfield in the ninth.
Erik Manoah (3-2) will make the start for the Barnstormers against right-hander Liam O’Sullivan (3-5). Fans may tune into the Barnstormers YouTube channel, beginning at 6:30 on Thursday.
NOTES: De La Cruz had the fifth 10-K performance by a Lancaster starter this season…Gray Fenter pitched the eighth, his first appearance since August 16…Sandoval has four extra base hits in the series…Lancaster also has a magic number of eight for a wild card spot as does High Point, which leads Wild Health by 3 ½.