The Wright State University baseball program played one game at Fifth Third Field during Caleb Sampen’s three-year career with the Raiders, but the right-handed pitcher never took the mound in the Gem City’s minor league stadium.
On Tuesday night, Sampen put on a show in his old college stomping grounds.
The Bowling Green Hot Rods starter tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits in a 3-0 victory over the Dayton Dragons in front of 7,533 fans.
Sampen struck out seven and walked just one as Bowling Green won its eighth straight game and improved to 9-2 in the second half and 49-33 overall.
Jay Schuyler, Mariel Bautista, Miles Gordon and Miguel Hernandez each had hits for the Dragons, who fell to 4-7 in the second half and 32-49 overall.
The Hot Rods scored two runs in the third inning and added an insurance run in the ninth inning.
“We held the game there and it was good pitching on both sides,” said Dragons manager Luis Bolivar. “They scored early and we couldn’t get anything going offensively. That was a big part of the game right there.”
With the win, Sampen improved to 5-3 and dropped his earned run average to 3.19 in his first full season of professional baseball.
“I was just mixing pitches in the zone,” Sampen said. “What I’ve been trying to work on all year is getting a feel for everything early in the game so that I can come back to it so I don’t have to pocket any pitches. I can just kind of throw it all at everybody and try to keep people off-balance.”
Sampen, a Brownsburg, Ind. native, was 5-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 11 appearances for the Raiders in 2018 before being drafted by the Dodgers in the 20th round. In January, he was later traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in a deal that sent major league reliever Jamie Schultz to the Dodgers.
Sampen’s father, Bill, had a 10-year major league career, appearing in 182 games for the Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals and California Angels.
Before the game, Sampen met with Raiders head coach Alex Sogard and his family, he said.
“It’s always nice to see him,” Stampen said. “It’s good to be back. I have a lot of good memories out there.”
The Dragons had just one runner reach third base. Schuyler doubled in the sixth inning and moved to third on a wild pitch, but Pabel Manzanero grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.
Dayton starter James Marinan left the game in the third inning with the bases loaded and one out after tossing 51 pitches. He was pulled early due as he nears his innings limit for the season, Bolivar said.
“Physically, he’s good, we’re just trying to take care of him,” Bolivar said. “We’re just trying to get him through the year.”
An RBI sacrifice fly by Grant Witherspoon and an RBI single by Roberto Alvarez plated two runs for the Hot Rods against Dragons reliever Moises Nova in the third inning.
Dayton’s Alexis Diaz pitched four scoreless innings, striking out four and walking just two batters.
The Hot Rods’ Jonathan Aranda nailed a home run to right center field in the ninth inning off of Dragons reliever Adrian Rodriguez to make it 3-0.
“(The pitching staff) did a good job,” Bolivar said. “Diaz went long, four innings, it was nice to see that from him. He kept us in the game. Pitching-wise, we did a pretty good job.”
Sampen is one of 13 Wright State players to be drafted in each of the last five MLB drafts. Four players were taken in the draft last month, including third-rounder Peyton Burdick (Florida Marlins) and fourth-rounder Seth Gray (Minnesota Twins).
“It’s a culture thing there,” Sampen said. “They breed winners and hard workers. They recruit for that, too. You know going in that if you’re recruited there that there’s a good chance you’re going to be able to play in a regional every year and showcase your talents. A lot of guys are reaping the rewards from that.”
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