Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week: Laurence Manning’s Campbell Throws Swampcats Ahead of Hammond
Laurence Manning appeared in Friday’s game with Hammond in the SCISA 3A baseball playoffs as an underdog.
The Swampcats traveled to Colombia to take on the two-time defending state champions and were going to need a massive pitching performance from Jackson Campbell to lead with a win.
The Swampcat ace pitched a full game, allowing just a single unearned run in a 6-1 win, sending LMA to the top bracket championship, which was played on Wednesday. This performance also earned Campbell recognition as the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.
“It means a lot to have a lot of people behind me,” Campbell said after winning the vote. “I think it’s important to have a community that really supports its members for winning awards like this.”
Campbell was quick to thank God as well as his teammates and coaching staff for giving him the opportunity to start on Friday. LMA head coach Barry Hatfield made the decision to start the senior southpaw upon his arrival at Columbia and that decision paid off.
“We got there, and the coach gave me the ball and told me I was throwing and I had the mindset that I had to get the job done,” Campbell said. “You can’t really lose focus playing in a place like this and against a team like Hammond because a little slack will lead to a big mistake and runs.”
Campbell got off to a slow start, having to travel many pitches to get past the first two innings. He was able to settle as play continued and eventually finished the full game with 103 pitches thrown.
“As the game went on and stayed tight, I got more confident,” Campbell said. “The longer it went on, the more I felt I was going to be able to do the job.”
One aspect that helped Campbell take control of the game was his breaking ball. Hatfield credits his senior pitcher’s ability to develop the field throughout the season.
“He had enough breaking ball that they couldn’t just sit on his fastball. The last time he was there he gave up a home run and that was largely because ‘they figured out he didn’t have a usable breaking bullet.” said Hatfield. “In the middle of the game he threw a 2-2 break ball and missed, then retired one of their best hitters on a 3-2 break ball. From that point on, the idea of having to honoring a break ball was there and he has the speed that if you guess wrong you don’t catch up.”
Campbell said he really spent a lot of time improving his breaking ball to prepare for games like the game against Hammond.
“The first time we played them I didn’t have a breakable ball. I’ll say it. I think it was pretty obvious with the way that game went versus how the game Friday happened,” Campbell said. “I really worked every day on that, trying to perfect that so I had it for big games like that.”
The game was locked in a 1-1 tie until the start of the seventh, when LMA finally broke through with a 5-run inning. Campbell came out for the bottom of the inning and got two quick outs against the bottom of the Skyhawk formation. When the order reversed, Tucker Toman arrived on base with a single before a Bentley Yeatts double. Campbell settled in after that, inducing a lineup at Dylan Richardson’s third for the final.
“I just had to stay calm and focus on what I was doing and make sure I didn’t overdo it,” Campbell said.
Hatfield said one of the keys to Campbell’s success was this ability to score against the bottom of the lineup. Pitchers can’t afford to let runners on base in front of Toman and Yeatts and Campbell avoid this all night.
“Hit ability to focus, because when you lose eight or nine (in batting order) you’ll be out of the game,” Hatfield said. “I was really proud of him.”
It was a significant win for a senior heavy Swampcat team. Campbell wants his final season at Laurence Manning to last as long as possible, so every win counts.
“It really meant a lot to me because this win took a lot of the stress off the team of not having to play on Monday. It saved a lot of pitches,” Campbell said. “This class has been through a lot. We’ve been through a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Before this year it seemed like more downs, but this year it really feels like a lot of ups.”