The Charlotte Knights looked like they had dug themselves into a hole early in Friday’s game against the Rochester Red Wings.
Knights’ outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo made sure things didn’t stay that way.
He belted a career-best three home runs as Charlotte took a 9-5 victory over the Red Wings in their International League series opener at BB&T BallPark.
Tuiasosopo finished with seven RBIs for Charlotte (61-53). He became the eighth Knights player to hit three homers in a game, and the first since Dan Black had three against Columbus on May 29, 2014.
“That’s a first for me, ever,” Tuiasosopo said. “Any time you can start the day off with a hit makes you feel good, and a home run is even better. But I never expected it to end up as a three-homer game.”
Tuiasosopo’s hits came at the right time for Charlotte, especially after Rochester (57-56) had tagged Knights starter Scott Carroll for two runs in the top of the first inning.
But Tuiasosopo connected on a three-run homer over the right-field wall in the bottom of the first to put Charlotte back in the lead, and a solo home run over the left-field wall in the second for a 5-2 lead.
That made Tuiasosopo the first Knights player to hit home runs in back-to-back innings since Josh Phegley did it against Pawtucket on Aug. 7, 2014.
Tuiasosopo’s final homer would be his biggest and best – a three-run shot over the left-field scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh, staking Charlotte to a 9-3 lead.
“It was important,” Tuiasosopo said. “It gave us some cushion, gave us some breathing room. That’s important in this ballpark, because you can put up a lot of runs quick.”
“That first inning was big for both teams. We were able to bounce back, and that game by Tuiasosopo was fun to watch. That’s something you don’t see very often, but he had some nice swings.” – Knights manager Joel Skinner.
Carroll got the win for Charlotte, improving to 5-2 on the season. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings, with one strikeout.
The Knight play the second game in their three-game series against the Red Wings on Saturday. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Erik Johnson (8-9, 2.49 ERA) will start for Charlotte, while right-hander Jose Berrios (2-1, 3.58 ERA) will go for Rochester.