Rock Bridge senior Jack Campbell walked to the plate with the Bruins trailing Hickman by one run.
With the game on the line, the Bruins wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Campbell singled to left with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to boost the Bruins over the Kewpies 5-4 on Wednesday at Taylor Stadium on the MU campus. The victory was the Bruins’ (12-7) second win over the Kewpies (11-10) in three meetings this season, including the Bruins’ 6-3 win on April 28. Hickman beat Rock Bridge 3-1 on April 18. The winning single was the second this season for Campbell, who also drove home the winning run in a 7-6 victory over Blue Springs South on April 6.
Campbell has gained a reputation for coming through for his team in the clutch, a role Bruins coach Justin Towe said his right fielder is comfortable with.
“He’s got big enough shoulders to carry the load,” Towe said. “He’s totally confident that he’s going to do something with the baseball in that situation.”
Hickman senior outfielder Steve Schluckebier, who played American Legion baseball with Campbell the summer before their junior years, said that he knew from experience Campbell was a clutch player.
“I’ve seen him do it this season, and read about it in the paper in the morning and was happy for him,” Schluckebier said. “It’s going to be a different feeling tomorrow. It was a great atmosphere tonight, though, and I’m proud of him.”
Campbell’s ability in late situations has much to do with his leadership abilities. He can be seen at Bruins games giving teammates pointers or telling them when they need to play with more intensity. Campbell’s leadership skills aren’t just honed on the diamond, however. Campbell is also the senior class president at Rock Bridge.
“I don’t know about my qualities as a leader,” Campbell said. “I just try and bear down and do my part. Everything else will take care of itself and fall into place.”
Towe said that Campbell has all the attributes of a natural leader, both on the diamond and in life.
“It’s what he does,” Towe said. “There’s a reason why he’s class president. He does a little bit of everything. He knows when to get after guys or pick them up. He’s an intelligent young adult, and he knows instinctually when to do what he needs to do.”
Campbell has another factor driving him to succeed — desperation. He is the only senior Bruin whose baseball career will end after high school. Campbell will attend MU next year, will major in biology and plans to attend medical school, shunning the sport he loves.
“I think it’s different for me than some guys,” Campbell said. “I have a good perspective on the game, because I’m the only guy not playing next year. This is my last year playing baseball. I know I have to cherish every moment.”
Campbell stands out in the classroom. He earned a Bright Flight Curators scholarship and will be in the Conley Scholars program at MU. His academic success comes as no surprise to Schluckebier, who said he expects Campbell to be successful in his chosen career path.
“It’s sad to not see him playing in college,” Schluckebier said. “But I know he’ll be a success in college because of his tremendous work ethic.”
Campbell’s work ethic is the reason why Schluckebier said Campbell showed drastic improvement in the past two years.
“It’s great to see him develop,” Schluckebier said. “He’s become a much better player over the past two years than he was at the beginning. He’s not afraid to fail, and that’s why he’s successful.”
Even without baseball, the future is promising for Campbell. He said it’s a future he eagerly awaits, though he will miss baseball.
“I’m the one guy not playing next year, and it reminds me of how great baseball is,” Campbell said. “I’m looking forward to the future and what it will bring for me.”