Humps heating up at just the right time

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Things couldn’t be going much better for Campbell’s baseball team. Since their loss to East Carolina on May 12, the Camels have won seven straight prior to Sunday’s meeting with Quinnipiac, including three games in the Big South Tournament and the opening game of the NCAA Greenville Regional against N.C. State.

It’s been a delightful combination of hot hitting and solid pitching that’s done the trick for Campbell. They’ve scored 82 runs (11.7 per game) during the win streak while giving up 28 (4 per game).

“Sometimes things bounce our way and I think this game was one of those deals,” said Campbell coach Justin Haire after his team’s win over N.C. State. “I think Michael [Horrell] did a tremendous job of executing a pitching plan that coach [Chris] Marx put together. I think that offensively we just try to hit the ball hard as often as we possibly can and try to put as much pressure on the defense as we possibly can. That’s baseball.”

Horrell has been tremendous all season long for Campbell, and he kept that up on Friday. After giving up three unearned runs in the third behind some shakey defending, he retired 10 batters straight before giving up a single in the seventh. And after that he struck out three-straight before surrendering a solo homer in the eighth.

After several delays, relief pitchers Tyson Messer and Landry Moore were both able to get the job done and seal the win, much like they’ve done all season.

“I want to say it was nerve-wracking, but it really wasn’t,” Horrell said of sitting in the dugout as his teammates tried to close the game. “I just have so much faith in our guys and the preparation that they’ve put in coming in and pitching in those big moments that I wasn’t really worried. I knew Landry was going to come in, throw strikes, keep people off balance and close out the game, and that’s what happened.”

The one Campbell pitcher everyone’s been asking about is Seth Johnson, who’s been projected to go in the first round of Monday’s MLB Draft. He pitched six innings in his sophomore season at Louisburg before transferring to Campbell this season, but he’s found his calling on the mound. While his ERA is a bit high at 4.72, his stuff is an undeniable: a mid-90’s fastball to go with a nasty breaking ball. In 61 innings of work, he racked up what was a team-high 77 strikeouts (Horrell passed him on Saturday, moving from 74 to 85).

Campbell’s other starter, freshman Ryan Chasse, shouldn’t be overlooked. Named the Big South Freshman of the Year, Chasse has had some big time performances for the Camels, posting a 2.66 ERA and holding opponents to just a .215 batting average.

“The good thing about our team is we’ve got some depth on the mound,” Haire said. “Guys that can come out of the bullpen, guys that can start, and depending on the matchups we’ll kind of figure that out as we go.”

The pitching is impressive, but the Humps are a hitting team, too. It all starts at the top of the lineup with redshirt-junior Matthew Barefoot. Barefoot is batting .313 on the season with a team-high 13 home runs, 54 runs scored and 47 RBIs. He’s also second on the team with 25 stolen bases.

The Camels tout three other .300-plus hitters in Spencer Packard, Collin Wolf and Luis Giminez. Catcher Zach Minnick isn’t too far off at .294. And no one is hotter right now than Koby Collins. Collins won the Big South Tournament MVP after going 7-for-10 with two homers and three doubles. And he kept that hot streak going with a two-run homer in the first inning against N.C. State.

“I hope he keeps going,” Haire said with a smile. “That’s just a culmination of that guy working nonstop since he’s been back from the break. He was hurt in the fall, didn’t really play at all in the fall. You know, he was the last guy that made our 35-man roster in the spring, and man, to see that guy not play the first 10, 15, 20 games of the year, to have the success he’s had down the stretch here is just a testament to his work ethic.”

For many outside the program, Campbell looks like a potential Cinderella story. But that’s not the sense you get from the players and coaches.

“It’s special,” Horrell said of the team’s recent stretch. “I’m grateful to be a part of it, but at the same time it’s not very surprising because we have a special group of guys and we’re all very close-knit. We work extremely hard, and I kind of expected this to happen.”

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