Hog Calls:

Campbell proves he is ace material

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, April 20, 2019
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell throws during a game against Mississippi State on Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell throws during a game against Mississippi State on Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Numerically these 2019 baseball Razorbacks haven’t missed Blaine Knight.

Say what?

Blaine Knight went 14-0 last year! How can Arkansas not miss last year’s junior No. 1 ace-turned-pro?

Of course the Razorbacks miss Blaine Knight.

And they do. They just don’t miss him so much that first start in an SEC series.

Fourth-year junior right-hander Isaiah Campbell, last year’s No. 3 starter, gives Arkansas an A-1 Knight successor for 2019. Through 10 starts, Campbell stands 7-1. A well-pitched 3-2 game is his lone defeat.

Campbell averages nearly seven innings per start. He has thrown 66 1/3 innings with a 2.44 ERA. He’s struck out 78 with 10 walks.

After Campbell’s Thursday night SEC masterpiece at Baum-Walker Stadium, dazzling the nationally No. 2, .327-hitting Mississippi State Bulldogs, Arkansas junior center fielder Dominic Fletcher acknowledged Campbell inspires the Game One confidence that Knight inspired last year.

“He goes out there every Friday (Thursday sometimes because of TV), and we know he’s going to keep us in the game,” Fletcher said. “It’s fun to watch him competing his butt off.”

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said Campbell was outstanding in the 5-3 victory, keeping Mississippi State to two runs and five hits through 7 2/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

Van Horn explained what he sees different from No. 3 pitcher who went 5-7 in 2018, to this 7-1 ace.

“His command is better,” Van Horn said. “He can usually for strikes throw four different pitches [fastball, split-fingered fastball, a cutter and a curve, new pitching coach Matt Hobbs said].

“He’s able to work out of jams better. I think that’s part of the mindset that, ‘I’m the guy. I have to get it done with that Game One starter spot.’”

At first blush,Campbell says his starting mindset hasn’t changed from last year. Then upon reflection, it has.

“I think I’m more mentally there every game,” Campbell said. “I know we’re going to get their best pitcher, and I have to have my best stuff and keep us in the game.”

Never wispy at a big-boned 6-4, Campbell physically imposes more than ever. He gained 20 pounds of muscle and stamina to 238.

“He carries around good weight,” Hobbs said. “And he has been able to keep his weight on, which is hard to do in the season.”

He also turned bad into good. First he was the good but frustrated freshman on the bad 26-29 Razorbacks in 2016. Then he was arm-injury-hardshipped in 2017. Last year he became a vital, though inconsistent, cog to Arkansas’ national runner-up ascension.

It all, Hobbs said, molded Campbell among the best.

“No matter how terrible the adversity seems when you are going through it, I think it builds you whoever you are,” Hobbs said. “Him, especially, because he’s been through a lot. It was just a matter of time before what we’re seeing now with his development and maturity.”

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