BUIES CREEK, N.C. (WNCN) – Campbell University baseball history was made in Hollywood on Sunday Night when Camels shortstop Zach Neto was drafted 13th overall by the Los Angeles Angels, becoming the first-ever first-rounder in school history.
The two-time Big South Player of the Year has been a menace at the plate for the past two seasons in Buies Creek ranking 13th or better nationally each of the past two seasons in batting average. His calling card is an exaggerated leg kick that started as a joke of sorts in high school.
“I wasn’t the biggest kid on my team in high school and I was just trying to get some power somehow and I was just joking around with it and it ended up working out for me,” Neto explained. “I used it in one season in high school and had probably the best season I had in high school and just continued from there. When I got to college it was the same thing. Got stronger, got bigger, was able to maintain that leg kick and be a force at the plate.”
Size has impacted Neto his entire life and played a major role in his lack of attention coming out of high school. The All-American wasn’t drafted and didn’t have any offers from Power 5 programs which led a kid from Miami to a school he’d never heard of in a small town in North Carolina.
“Coach (Justin) Haire didn’t really sugar coat anything on my recruiting visit,” Neto recalled. “Pretty much everything he said that tried to sell me to go to the school was on point. Everything that he told me was going to happen in my development process happened.”
Step one of the process was to gain weight. Without a college baseball season his freshman year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Neto put on roughly 50 pounds going from 150 to 200 pounds.
His game quickly took off.
In the season that followed, Neto’s batting average ranked 13th, his slugging percentage 10th nationally. In that redshirt freshman year, he had a 20-game hit streak, with multiple hits in 14 of those games and multiple RBI in 15 of those games.
A high level of success carried over to his redshirt sophomore year.
“It doesn’t start without the coaches putting me in the best spot in the cages, challenging me to fail,” Neto said. “I know I’m not going to succeed every time at the plate but learning how to fail is just going to make the game easier for me and how that feels.”
Camels Pitcher Thomas Harrington remains on the board, he is widely projected to go in the second round of the draft.