BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- Wander Franco hit two home runs, Kaleo Johnson drove in two runs, and Caleb Sampen struck out nine over 6.0 innings of one-run ball to lead the Bowling Green Bootleggers to a 6-5 win over the Lansing Lugnuts in the series opener on Bootlegger Thursday at Bowling Green Ballpark, improving to 12-9 on the season. Bowling Green and Lansing return to action on Friday night for a 6:35 P.M. first pitch in game two of the series.
Sampen began his night by retiring the first eight hitters for Bowling Green, but ran into trouble in the third. With two outs, Dom Abbadessa singled to center, then stole second. Reggie Pruitt followed with an RBI single up the middle to score Abbadessa for a 1-0 Lansing lead.
The Bootleggers immediately responded against Lansing starter Fitz Stadler, as Osmy Gregorio led off with a walk and stole second. After Beau Brundage drew a one-out walk, Gregorio scored when Franco singled off the left field wall. Following a lineout to center, both Brundage and Betts advanced on a passed ball. Johnson took advantage of the miscue by lining a two-run single to center, scoring both runners to give the Bootleggers a 3-1 lead.
In the fifth, Lansing loaded the bases with two outs on a single and two walks, but Sampen induced a fly ball to left to strand all three runners. In the bottom of the inning, Franco sliced a fly ball the opposite way that landed in the Bowling Green bullpen just inside the left-field foul pole for his second home run of the season, putting Bowling Green up 4-1.
After Sampen spun a scoreless sixth inning, Cobi Johnson entered the game for Lansing in the bottom of the frame and allowed a lead-off double to Kaleo Johnson, followed by a walk to Grant Witherspoon. With rain steadily falling, the game went into a delay, which lasted 38 minutes.
Following the delay, Roberto Alvarez singled to center to load the bases, then Jake Palomaki drew a walk that brought home Johnson, making it a 5-1 game. Cobi Johnson induced a strikeout and double play to prevent any further damage.
Against Bootleggers’ reliever Miguel Lara, the Lugnuts scored twice in the seventh cutting the lead to 5-3. In the bottom of the frame, Franco launched a long home run over the left field wall, his second of the game and third of the year, pushing the lead out to 6-3.
Lansing converted a one-out double into a run in the eighth off of Chris Muller, cutting the deficit to two runs. In the ninth, Lansing put two on with one out and had the tying run in scoring position with two outs, when Muller threw a wild pitch to score D.J. Neal, making it 6-5. However, Muller snagged a ground ball off the bat of Jordan Groshans, stranding the tying run on third to nail down the win.
Sampen (2-1) worked a career-best 6.0 innings, allowing one run on four hits, allowing one walk and striking out a career-high nine batters in the win. Lara worked one inning, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk. Chris Muller worked the final two innings, allowing two runs on three hits with four strikeouts in securing his second save of the season.