Sam Carpenter was already halfway home from Piedmont College’s 15-1 drubbing of Oglethorpe last Tuesday before he realized he had made history for the Lions.
Carpenter — who graduated from Gainesville High 2016 — pitched seven near-perfect innings in the contest, striking out 10 to get to 271 in his career, a record for Division-III Piedmont College.
And while Carpenter knew he was approaching the mark coming into this season, he hadn’t been keeping very close track of it.
As the team was served dinner in the bus on the way home from Atlanta, Lions head coach Justin Scali walked over and sat down next to Carpenter to deliver the news: the left-handed pitcher had officially struck out more batters than any Lions pitcher before him.
“It’s pretty special,” Carpenter said. “There’s been a bunch of pitchers before me that I’ve looked up to. To be in a conversation with them is really special to me.”
Baseball has been integral to Carpenter’s life from the time he was born.
As the son of Cris Carpenter, who pitched for four different MLB clubs in the 80s and 90s, Sam often dreamed of one day following in his father’s footsteps.
“Hearing all the stories about him, when I was younger, kind of made me want to get into baseball and kind of do what he did,” Sam Carpenter said. “Basically it’s just become my life. It’s become probably the most enjoyable thing that I’ll ever do.”
Carpenter’s development as a pitcher was accelerated when he first started playing for the Red Elephants, where he said intrasquad scrimmages were often more competitive than actual games.
“We had a pretty solid lineup all four years that I was there,” he said. “We had a bunch of Division-I guys and a couple guys that had chances to get drafted. Learning how to pitch at a young age. Learning how to set up guys at a young age, has really helped me with pursuing my career.”
But just as Carpenter was starting to earn a more important role on the team, an ACL tear he suffered his junior year of high school set him back. The injury kept him out for all of his third season with the Red Elephants, which is typically the most important year in the college-baseball recruiting cycle.
Carpenter said he remembers being frustrated by the timing of it.
“Your junior year is a pretty big time to get your name out there,” he said. “That’s when colleges really start to look for guys. It was tough. I really didn’t talk to anybody until really my senior year, because I wasn’t known.”
Despite the missed year, Carpenter managed to get on the radar of Piedmont College at a fall showcase his senior year of high school. He made a good connection with the coaching staff immediately, saying it was “an easy decision” deciding to play for the Lions.
Now, 271 strikeouts later, it seems like it was also the right one.
As Carpenter’s college career comes to an end, he said he realistically does not plan on attempting to play professionally.
“I know that my chances beyond college baseball are slim, because I don’t throw hard enough for the guys nowadays,” he said.
But he does plan on staying involved with the sport.
Carpenter said he is actively pursuing a career in college coaching, and has been networking with his own coaches in an attempt to get his foot in the door of a career he believes he will find success.
“I just really want to stay plugged in with baseball,” he said. “It’s been a huge part of my life. I feel like (coaching) is something I can really be good at and something I would really, really enjoy.”