By Jeff Louderback
Former Wright State pitcher Caleb Sampen will take the mound Sunday afternoon when the Bowling Green Hot Rods host the Dayton Dragons.
It will be the finale of a season-opening four-game series between the clubs with the first two at Fifth Third Field and the final two in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
For the 22-year-old Sampen, it marks his debut in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. A 20th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, the right-hander was traded to the Rays in January for reliever Jaime Shultz.
Sampen is the son of former major league pitcher Bill Sampen, who pitched over five Major League seasons with the Expos, Angels, and Royals from 1990 to 1994. He posted a career record of 25-21 with a 3.73 ERA in 299.1 innings. Included his minor league tenure, the elder Sampen pitched 10 years of professional baseball.
A Brownsburg, Indiana native, Caleb Sampen earned 2016 Freshman of the Year honors in the Horizon League and was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman team when he posted a 2.76 earned run average across 14 starts.
After missing the 2017 campaign following surgery to repair an ulnar nerve in his elbow, Sampen returned in 2018 on a pitch count. Still, he was impressive, finishing with a 5-0 record and a 3.26 ERA over 11 appearances and 47 innings. He limited opposing hitters to a .229 average and struck out 33 while walking 14.
In his two seasons at Wright State, Sampen went 14-4 in 26 games (21 as a starter) with a 2.92 earned run average, 90 strikeouts and 37 walks in 141.2 innings.
His ability to induce ground balls, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio, appealed to the Dodgers, who offered him a $125,000 signing bonus and sent him to their Rookie League affiliate in the Pioneer League. In 13 games at Ogden (Utah), including 11 starts, Sampen registered a 5.04 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP with 43 strikeouts and nine walks in 30.1 innings .
Sampen is not the only former Wright State pitcher drafted last summer that is projected to face the Dragons. Ryan Weiss, was selected in the fourth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks and is on the Opening Day roster for the Kane County Cougars.