STARKVILLE, Miss. (WNCN) – Campbell’s final game against Mississippi State was like a microcosm of its 2021 season. The Camels started off a little rough, then regrouped with the help of their seniors to get back on track.
Numerous players took center stage to help them along the way and they were in the hunt right up until the final out.
“All the losses, all the challenges of the last 18 or 20 months, our guys didn’t give up. They didn’t shy away from the fight,” said Camels head coach Justin Haire. “They certainly stamped their legacy as a team and a group of young men that left this place better than how they found it.”
Mississippi State took an early lead scoring a pair of runs in its first at-bat. Just like they have been all year, though, the Camels took it in stride. In the bottom half, Campbell put two on for senior Spencer Packard. Showing no ill effects from the prior night’s late finish, he proceeded to deposit the ball in the right-field seats to give them the lead.
It was Packard’s 11th homer of the year and Campbell’s 72nd — the third-most in a single season in program history.
“I was just ready to go today after last night’s performance, honestly,” Packard said. “I knew what I needed to do for the team and that’s just grind out some at-bats today and try to get this win today and that’s what I did.”
After getting roughed up by VCU Friday, freshman pitcher Thomas Harrington dazzled on short rest, tossing the final 5 innings allowing just four hits and one run while striking out three to keep the Camels within striking distance.
“Obviously Friday didn’t have a great outing against VCU he’s been freshman of the year in conference and he’s special,” Haire said. “They’re a good offensive club and he held them down out there. I think he threw four or five innings and really just gave us an opportunity late to strike back and be within striking distance. He’s going to be a special one.”
The Camels cut the lead to one run but could push across another to tie. It’s a disappointment if you narrowly focus on the outcome of this one game. Broaden the scope of your vision to encompass the last decade of where Camels baseball was to where it is currently and it’s something quite different.
“We are inching closer to busting through one of these things, you know? Ultimately, where we were 14 years ago when we showed up on campus coming off of 2007 and an 11-45 record walking in the door in the fall of 2007,” Haire said, “to where we are today — three straight regionals, two straight three seeds, an at-large bid, first time in school history, two straight regional finals, pushing Mississippi State to the brink here. Not that that’s a moral victory, but we are better today than we have ever been.”
Leave it better than you found it. It’s the mantra that has baseball not just on the map in Buies Creek, but headed in the right direction. Building a better record goes hand-in-hand with a better baseball culture. Recruiting the right players willing to sacrifice for the greater good is key. It’s only natural the bonds they build will outlast the season that helped form them.
“I’m just so glad that we got that experience together with everything that we have been through — with being on the bus headed to Charleston Southern and getting a text from coach that our season is over basically and not knowing what we are going to do,” said senior Collin Wolf. “Just knowing that we got any sort of chance to play again, it just meant the world. And so, when we broke at the end our last couple moments on the field, that is what I told everyone was just thank you guys for letting us have this opportunity to come back. That’s something I’ll never forget.