Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: Bumpy McHumperback | School Location: The Creek of Buie, NC | Conference: Big South
2023 Record: 44-13 (22-5, 1st*) | 2023 RPI Rank: 13
2022 Record: 41-19 (20-3, 1st*) | 2022 RPI Rank: 59
2021 Record: 37-18 (28-9, 1st) | 2021 RPI Rank: 37
*2022 & 2023 Big South Tournament Champions
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Founders Park (Columbia, SC)
Game Time(s): Fri, Jun 2 @ 1:00pm
TV: Friday (ACC Network and ESPN+)
Radio: The Varsity Network (Friday)
Live Stats: NCAA Stats
Tell me about this team
First things first, and I’ve said it before, but I was wrong about Justin Haire. After Greg Goff led Campbell to an appearance in the Columbia Regional in 2014 - and then took off for Louisiana Tech, and then Alabama - Goff was hired to take the reigns of the program. After the best three-year program run under Goff (131-49 overall, 1 Big South Regular Season title, 1 Big South Tournament title) in, well, ever at that point, the program was expected to take a little step back. It appeared to plateau and stagnate (83-84 overall), and then Haire started hitting the JUCO ranks heavy.
That last part is usually a last-ditch effort and rarely works out.
Well, nobody told Haire that because dude started absolutely nailing the player evals and getting productive players who fit his system and his brand of ball, while supplementing with high-ceiling high school recruits who started to pan out.
The results speak for themselves. Over the last five full seasons, Campbell is 194-92 overall with five Big South Regular Season titles, four Big South Tournament titles, and five NCAA Regional appearances.
Have a freaking run, Camels!
Of course, that run has Haire on every team’s shortlist, from UCF to Georgia - and rumors have it he’s the frontrunner for the Georgia job. It’ll be interesting to see if that distracts the Camels at all this weekend.
But back to this weekend. This is, without a doubt, the best Campbell team in program history. And that’s despite losing a pair of 1st rounders in last year’s draft, as well as their top reliever. Restock, reload, and keep it going.
Steven already touched on Campbell’s style, but the short of it is: aggressive on offense, with a mix of power and speed, talented arms on the mound, with a mix of great stuff and iffy control.
If you want to try and poke holes into Campbell, there’s a few. The above control issues from the pitchers is far-and-away point number one, with point number two being the competition faced in the Big South (only one other team had an RPI better than 100 and only two other teams finished with winning records on the year). The team also was 9-3 in games that were either decided by one run or went to extra innings. There’s obviously two arguments to that; the team was lucky or the team knows how to win close games. Which side you take depends on how you view the Camels.
How you should view them is simply how they are: an experienced, hard-nosed group that is not only the best in program history, but should be the favorites to win the 2023 Columbia Regional.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Friday: RHP Cade Kuehler (JR)
CF Tyler Halstead (rSR) - .377/.458/.532, 9.1 BB%, 10.2 K%, 32-36 SB. The only one of the four hitters listed here who didn’t make 1st Team All-Big South this year, which doesn’t make sense. He did make the 2nd Team, as well he should have. The lefty hitting former JUCO transfer is an on-base machine with speed to burn.
2B Jarrod Belbin (rSR) - .325/.430/.658, 13.7 BB%, 17.2 K%, 25-25 SB. Linebacker sized infielder who is a former JUCO transfer. Looks like the cop from Deuce Bigalow. Excellent combo of power and speed.
RF Lawson Harrill (rJR) - .374/.484/.788, 12.6 BB%, 23.5 K%, 5-5 SB. The 2023 Big South Player-of-the-Year. Came out of nowhere this year to just start smacking around the ball like it owes him money. Big difference is getting a lot more loft on the ball, but that alone doesn’t account for the massive jump in homers.
SS Bryce Arnold (JR) - .323/.418/.655, 11.9 BB%, 14.8 K%, 7-10 SB. He’s from a Canadia, eh, and he looks like it. Compact swing to match his compact frame. Has added pop this year, but has a tendency to pull. Glove has been an issue at shortstop.
RHP Cade Kuehler (JR) - 8-0, 2.82 ERA, 67.0 IP, 8.5 BB%, 30.9 K%. Entered this year as a potential 1st round MLB pick this year. Has a ton of pitches, but the best two are the fastball (low-to-mid 90’s, but can crank it up to high 90’s at times) and slider. His draft stock has taken a bit of a hit this year as he’s given up more hard contact than expected and his control, while improved, still isn’t great. Was just a few votes shy of winning the 2023 Big South Pitcher-of-the-Year award.
RHP Hunter Loyd (SR) - 4-4, 4.61 ERA, 66.1 IP, 10.5 BB%, 21.0 K%. East Tennessee State transfer with a WWI style mustache. Control is his major issue, but he’s a workhorse who will throw 90+ pitches every time out.
RHP Chance Daquila (rJR) - 8-1, 5.25 ERA, 61.2 IP, 6.8 BB%, 15.5 K%. A 2023 2nd Team All-Big South honoree. JUCO transfer from Catawba Valley is effective, but doesn’t work deep into games - has only worked past the 5th inning in 3 of 13 starts - despite being a guy who pitches to contact.
RHP Aaron Rund (rSR) - 5-1, 5 SV, 3.90 ERA, 55.1 IP, 10.4 BB%, 27.1 K%. Former JUCO transfer from Sacramento City College is another 2023 1st Team All-Big South guy. Was a starter last year, but the 6’5, 225 pounder has transitioned into more of a follower role this year. Has only one single-inning outing this year, which was a save-earning effort against UNC (nice).
RHP Ty Cummings (JR) - 5-2, 3 SV, 3.22 ERA, 50.1 IP, 10.0 BB%, 23.7 K%. Fastball/Slider, low-slot reliever with a mid-90’s heater who induces a ton of groundballs. Control can be an issue, but has good enough stuff to work around letting men on base. His best outings were against the biggest opponents.
RHP Cade Boxrucker (JR) - 2-1, 2 SV, 4.05 ERA, 40.0 IP, 15.0 BB%, 31.1 K%. Another guy who can flash some serious stuff, but can also struggle with control. Opponents are hitting just .178 off him, but he’s allowed more walks (27) than hits (26). Biggest difference in his effectiveness this year (aside from the obvious jump in strikeouts) is that he’s dramatically cut down on the dingers allowed.
RHP Jackson Roberts (FR) - 2-0, 1 SV, 2.30 ERA, 31.1 IP, 15.3 BB%, 25.2 K%. The 2023 Big South Freshman-of-the-Year from Northern Guilford HS. A flyball pitcher who became more of a multi-inning guy once conference play rolled around. Opponents are hitting just .114 off him and slugging just .200. Like most of the other guys here, though, control is an issue (20 BB vs 12 H allowed).
Quick! Fun Facts!
Can we just go ahead and create a regional baseball conference centered around Campbell, East Carolina, Coastal Carolina, and UNCW? There are plenty enough other quality schools in the region to fill that out (Appalachian State, Charlotte, Davidson, Elon, Liberty, ODU, UNCG, USC Upstate, Western Carolina, Winthrop).
Campbell landed eight players among the 15 total 1st Team All-Big South selections this year. They placed another four on the 2nd Team.
The Camels program had won all of one regular season conference title in the previous 30 seasons before Justin Haire led them on their current run of five straight titles.
NC State alum and former MLB pitcher Mike Caldwell led the Campbell baseball program from 1987 to 1991, winning the Big South Regular Season title in 1987 and the Big South Tournament title in 1988 and 1990. That 1990 squad was the first Campbell team to make an NCAA Regional appearance. The program wouldn’t get back to a regional until 2014.
These are two teams capable of beating any team they face, but Campbell has been more consistent this year (thanks, Captain Obvious). They also have the better pitcher going in this one, and that alone will tilt the odds in their favor.
State’s best odds in this one are to work deep counts again Kuehler to try and get him out of the game early (he’s only topped 100 pitches on two occasions this year, and never more than 105 in an outing), and then be patient with the relievers and let them help you with freebies.
Outcome: Camels win a tight contest, 6-4.