Players are typically amped up for Opening Day, but Fort Wayne right-hander Keyvius Sampson took it to the next level Thursday.
The TinCaps starter tossed six perfect innings in his full-season debut, striking out a career-high 10 batters, and Fort Wayne held on to beat South Bend, 2-1.
For Sampson, the Padres' fourth-round pick in the 2009 Draft, it was his second consecutive Opening Day gem. He pitched five shutout frames, fanning seven, to earn the win for the Eugene Emeralds in their 2010 opener last June.
"I was very pumped up and ready to go get them," Sampson said.
The 20-year-old Florida native opened the TinCaps' season by striking out the first three batters he faced -- a feat he repeated in the fourth and fifth innings. It took him 87 pitches to retire the 18 batters he faced, six of whom went to a 3-2 count before being polished off.
"The first three or four innings I think I threw all fastballs -- maybe with one changeup," Sampson said. "After that I mixed in a couple curves, but it was pretty much fastballs all night."
Sampson had no issues as the Fort Wayne evening became increasingly chilly and wet -- the game time temperature was just 45 degrees.
"I was fortunate that it didn't really start raining until the fifth inning or so," he said. "I was still feeling good [after six innings], but I know it's more important to focus on staying healthy and keeping within my pitch count."
First baseman Wes Cunningham drew a walk in the second, stole second and scored on a Tommy Medica single to give the TinCaps an early lead. They tacked on a second run when Medica doubled and scored in the fourth.
South Bend finally notched its first hit with two outs in the seventh after Fort Wayne reliever Chase Marona had taken over for Sampson. After Yefri Carvajal pitched a scoreless eighth, TinCaps closer Adam Dominick flirted with danger in the ninth, yielding a leadoff double and a pair of singles that left Fort Wayne clinging to a 2-1 lead facing runners on the corners with one out.
Dominick bore down and struck out the Silver Hawks' Yazy Arbelo and Matt Helm to end the threat and give Fort Wayne its sixth consecutive Opening Day victory. The club is 14-5 in openers over its 19-year history and improved to 97-43 at Parkview Field, which opened in 2009.
Sampson (1-0) earned the victory and Dominick his first save for Fort Wayne. South Bend starter David Holmberg (0-10) suffered the loss after yielding a pair of runs on eight hits over six innings. He struck out four and walked one.