Isaiah Campbell got the starting nod for Arkansas’ biggest game of the season, the NCAA Super Regional baseball final against South Carolina.
With his name likely called again Thursday, the stakes are even higher for the former Olathe South High standout.
The Razorbacks’ crushing 5-3 loss to Oregon State on Wednesday night in College World Series forced a deciding third game in Omaha. Arkansas won the series opener on Tuesday and led 3-2 headed into the top of the ninth Wednesday. The Razorbacks were one out away from their first NCAA baseball title and had the opportunity to make a play when Oregon State’s Cadyn Grenier lifted a pop foul to the right side.
Three Razorbacks chased the ball and all had a shot at making the catch. Second baseman Carson Shaddy put on a burst of speed, but he overran the ball and it dropped foul. Grenier then singled in the tying run and Trevor Lamach launched a two-run homer.
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Arkansas now turns to Campbell, the third-year sophomore who has delivered in his previous two appearances — the Super Regional final and his only College World Series appearance, against Florida.
“We’re really confident in Isaiah,” Shaddy said.
Campbell, whose father, Parry, was in the Air Force, was born in Portugal and lived in Germany and Turkey before the family settled in Olathe. He went 15-4 over his final three seasons at Olathe South and turned in a 1.66 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. He received recruiting interest from Kansas and Missouri schools but was sold when he visited Arkansas.
“Fell in love with it as soon as I got there,” Campbell said. “I knew right away that’s where I wanted to go.”
Campbell made six starts in 13 appearances as a freshman but didn’t get through the first inning of his sophomore year. Bone spurs were discovered in his right elbow and he took a medical redshirt.
“I had it since high school, but it never caused problems until last year,” Campbell said.
His regular season had ups and downs. Campbell made 16 starts. He’s 5-6 with a 4.12 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander, whose fastball hits 96 mph, was the 24th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels.
But as solid as he was against South Carolina, allowing two runs in four innings of a 14-4 victory, Campbell was even better in his previous outing, when he struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings to eliminate defending national champion Florida last week.
“He’s thrown really well the last couple of times out,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
The Razorbacks need another big effort from Campbell to improve their chances of winning a national title.