When Katie Campbell left Tupelo High School in the spring of 2008, she was only a small blip on the radar of most college scouts, despite graduating as one of the most accomplished athletes in school history.
But as Campbell left Seminole State College this spring, her star — and her stock — had obviously risen.
Two years ago, Seminole’s Kristina McSweeney was one of the few college softball coaches to make a serious pitch for Campbell, a two-sport star who had helped Tupelo to a slowpitch state championship (in the spring of 2006) and seven straight state tournament appearances (fast-pitch and slowpitch) to close out her high school career. Coming off a second straight season in which she was named a junior college All-American, though, Campbell had a much tougher decision to make this spring.
“I thought it was kind of interesting,” Campbell said. “Coming from a small school, only a few people contacted me out of high school; this year, they were blowing up my phone.”
Despite offers from a number of Division I programs — including Auburn, Texas Tech, Weber State, Southern Mississippi and Southeastern Louisiana — Campbell signed with Southeastern, located just right down the highway from Tupelo in Durant.
“I got some really good offers, but (Southeastern) is close to home, and my parents can come watch me play. When I went down there, it felt just like it did when I went to Seminole. I felt like they really wanted me.”
Campbell added, however, that her decision isn’t final.
“I’ll make my final decision Tuesday,” Campbell said. “I’ll probably stick with Southeastern, because two of my teammates are going there.”
If Campbell opts to try a Division I school instead of going to Durant, she said another Southeastern — the one in Hammond, La. — will be her likely destination.
“That coach came to every game from regionals to nationals (this spring),” Campbell said. “I just feel like I might have made my choice too soon.”
Campbell was part of McSweeney’s first recruiting class at Seminole, and together they led the program to unprecedented success the past two seasons. The Trojans came out of nowhere to finish third at the NJCAA national tournament in 2009, and, after winning a second straight regional title, they were back at the national tournament this spring, finishing fourth despite returning only three starters off the 2008-2009 squad.
“I think we expected to go back, just because we had already been there,” Campbell said. “We started off real slow, but at the end of the year everybody starting assuming their roles. I think we grew up a lot as the year went on.
“The teams this year (at the national tournament) were a lot better than they were last year,” she noted. “The top six teams were all good. Anybody could have gone home with the trophy that last weekend.”
Like her team, Campbell got off to a slow start in her second collegiate season. But after some sessions with her stepfather, Brian Davis (who was also her high school coach at Tupelo), she was able to turn things around.
“It was difficult this year,” Campbell explained. It felt like I had a big bullseye on my back. I kind of lost focus and I started off really slow. After spring break is where I hit my stride, and I kind of went from there.
“Honestly, in the fall I think the sophomores were more worried about where we were going next year,” she added. “I think we lost our focus wondering where we were going in the future.”
Campbell’s slow start kept her from equalling her 2009 statistics (a .486 batting average, 11 home runs and 70 RBIs), but her late surge at the plate put her close by season’s end. She finished with a .477 average, a .523 on-base percentage and a solid .521 slugging percentage. Even with those numbers, though, she said she wasn’t confident that she would repeat as an All-American.
“I didn’t hit as well this year as I did last year — I thought I wasn’t going to make it this year,” she admitted. “I knew I went in as the No. 1 player from Region II, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make it.”
In addition to being named to the NJCAA second team, Campbell was the only Oklahoma player voted to the Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association) All-American first team. She said that despite the similarities — most notably her being named to the All-American team again and the Trojans’ second straight top-five finish nationally — between her two seasons at Seminole, there was a different feel to her sophomore year.
“Both years were very different,” she said. “I think I’m the same player, I’m just trying to be more consistent, and I had to be more of a leader this year.”
And Campbell wasn’t just a leader on the field. She graduated with a 3.85 GPA, and last weekend she was chosen by the college and the city of Seminole to be the guest speaker at the opening ceremonies of the 6-and-under and 8-and-under USSSA Softball World Series.
“I had a decent year, but I wouldn’t have been anything without my teammates,” Campbell said. “Together, we accomplished everything.”