RIDGEFIELD — A text message from a college teammate caught Eastyn Culp’s attention, and just two days later, he was traveling with the Ridgefield Raptors on their road trip to Canada.
The 6-foot-4 pitcher, a Heritage High School alumnus, wasn’t planning to play summer baseball after finishing up his spring season at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.
At least, that was until UCC teammate Carson Angeroth, a fellow pitcher in the West Coast League with the Cowlitz Black Bears, sent a message to their college group chat asking if anyone wanted to get some extra work on the mound this summer.
Culp jumped at the open invitation.
“It’s actually a funny story,” Culp said.
“(Carson) texted our college group chat and he was like, ‘Any pitchers want some extra innings?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ I got in touch with coach Korey Kier and he got me in touch with (Raptors director of baseball and game-day operations) Jason Krohn and then, here I am. Two days later, I’m going to Canada, so it was really cool. It was wild.”
By joining the Raptors, Culp saw an opportunity to put his name out in front of more scouts and get more innings. The team has also benefitted from having the right-handed pitcher in its bullpen.
After throwing five scoreless innings in a relief appearance June 8 at Kelowna, Culp made his debut at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex on Wednesday and was a key catalyst in helping the Raptors preserve the lead in an eventual 11-4 win over Edmonton.
Culp entered in the fourth inning following a Riverhawks run with another runner on base. After giving up an RBI single to the first batter he faced, Culp went through 15 straight batters without giving up a hit, and finished the game with a strikeout in the ninth inning.
In 10.2 innings pitched across the two appearances, Culp has a 0.84 ERA, 0.66 WHIP with nine strikeouts and one walk.
“At my college, we talk about pace and getting in the zone, and I just felt like with all that preparation, I got into the zone pretty easy,” Culp said. “Hitter after hitter, I didn’t really focus on who was hitting, I just looked at the glove and was pounding the zone, throwing strikes.”
Because he knew ahead of time he’d be following starter Josh Sandoval, approximately 20 of Culp’s family members and family friends were at the RORC to watch his performance.
He started his collegiate career at Finlandia University, a Division III school in Hancock, Mich., before moving closer to home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Culp received an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic, so he currently has the same eligibility remaining as his younger brother, Brady, who plays catcher at Umpqua. The only caveat, however, is Eastyn Culp would lose that pandemic year if he ends up at a D-I school, he said.
Culp started his collegiate career splitting time as an infielder and pitcher, but that changed by the end of the fall 2021 season when he became a full-time pitcher, following the advice of Umpqua coach Jeremiah Robbins.
“My freshman year, I was a two-way (player) and I was playing everywhere in the infield, then pitching the fourth game of the weekend. That was a lot of work on my arm. This year, I go into the fall being a two-way and I finish the fall and the coach … he just wanted me to pitch (and) thought I’d get a lot more opportunities pitching. It’s definitely worked out for me.”
Following the summer season with the Raptors, which Culp hopes to be around for the entirety, he will return for one more season at Umpqua while looking for his next college landing spot.
“It’s been a really cool experience so far and I’m excited to play the rest of the summer,” he said.