RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Campbell Baseball went into the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Monday expecting to hear their name called after winning the Big South Tournament and earning an automatic bid.
What they didn’t expect was how quickly their name would be called. The Camels were among the first four names read that day for the Knoxville Region.
“We were definitely shocked we didn’t think our name was going to be called that early,” Zach Neto said. “The atmosphere in Knoxville is going to be awesome to play in. We’re going to play the best of the best.”
The Knoxville Region includes the best team in college baseball this season, the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers, as well as Georgia Tech, and Alabama State. The Camels made it clear they want to play the Vols but this time of year it’s one game at a time and their attention has been on their opening round opponent Georgia Tech.
“Offensively they’re (Georgia Tech) going to be really, really tough,” Campbell Baseball Head Coach Justin Haire said. “Georgia Tech’s offense is what really stands out they’re going to have a couple of really high end arms and they’re going to be battle tested coming out of the ACC and being a high quality program.”
The Yellow Jackets are not the only team in the Knoxville Regional with offensive firepower at their disposal. The Vols also rank in the top ten in a slew of offensive statistics this season most notably leading the country in homeruns this season. To combat that the Camels will rely on a veteran pitching rotation anchored by All-American and projected first rounder Thomas Harrington.
“Having some guys that have been through that fire before being in Starkville before I think our guys are ready for it,” Coach Haire said. “We’ve planned for these kind of opportunities with the way that we’ve scheduled over the last couple of years and getting into big atmospheres, and going on planes and going and playing big name schools so that our guys feel comfortable and excited to go into these kind of atmospheres. So hopefully our guys can draw from that experience and be ready to go.”
A year ago the Camels were in a similar spot playing in the Starkville Region. Campbell made it one game shy of the Championship Game, leaving the tying run on second in the ninth inning against the would-be national Champion Mississippi State Bulldogs, an experience they’re drawing from for this year.
“It prepared us a lot for playing in front of thousands of fans at Mississippi State,” Neto said. “We have a lot of returning guys this year, most of them are pitchers so it’s better for them to pitch under those circumstances and that loud atmosphere.”
FIRST UP: The Camels play Georgia Tech Friday, June 3rd at Noon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. Time of their next game is TBD dependent on the outcome.