MOREHEAD CITY — Christian Campbell, like most of his Marlins teammates, had never been in a game like the one they played Friday night.
He had never been in one that high scoring, one that involved such a huge comeback or one that lasted that long. And he had never been mobbed at first base to end one.
Campbell capped a contest that lasted a total of 13 innings and four hours and 37 minutes with a single to right field to give the Morehead City collegiate wood-bat squad a 13-12 victory over the Wilmington Sharks.
“It was pretty wild,” he said. “I touched first base and I turn around, and I’ve got five or six guys throwing water at me and jumping all over me. I didn’t mind getting drenched.”
It’s also safe to say Campbell never played a game where he had five hits from the No. 9 spot. The Rutgers sophomore finished 5-for-6 with a double, two RBIs and three runs.
“That’s not bad at all,” he said. “Coach said he was going to put me in the No. 9 hole, and I told him I would do my job, and I did it pretty well that night.”
With the score tied at 12-12 and runners on second and third with two outs, Campbell was the only thing standing between a win and another inning in the bottom of the 13th.
“I was just thinking what everybody else was thinking,” he said. “I just want to get this game over.”
Most in attendance thought the game was over much earlier. The Sharks were in control for much of the contest, jumping out first to a 5-0 lead after two and a half innings of play and leading 9-2 after four and a half innings.
Wilmington, which scored in each of the first seven innings, held a 11-4 advantage heading into the bottom of the sixth.
The Marlins scored five in their half of the inning to pull to within two, and then after a Sharks run in the seventh pushed the lead to three, Morehead City tied it up by pushing three across the plate in the bottom of the eighth.
“We’re down early big – I don’t even know – coming back like that was huge,” Campbell said searching for words to describe the incredible win. “We can be confident from here on out that we’re never out of a game. Knowing we can be down, five, six, seven, it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve been here before, why can’t we do it again?’”
The game put up a number of wild numbers.
The teams combined for 25 runs on 35 hits (Marlins 18, Sharks 15). On the negative side of the ledger, they combined for 10 errors (Marlins 6, Sharks 4) and they left a combined 23 runners on base (Marlins 12, Sharks 11).
Campbell hasn’t been putting up wild numbers that rival those ones this season, but his have been pretty impressive nonetheless.
He’s 14th in the Coastal Plain League in batting with a superb .340 average in 14 games. He leads the Marlins in average and on-base percentage (.435) and is tied for the team lead in runs (eight).
“I’m seeing the ball pretty well,” Campbell said. “I can’t really complain. I’m playing everyday and getting as many at-bats as possible. That’s what summer ball is all about.”
The improbable win over Wilmington gave Morehead City back-to-back wins for the first time in two weeks and gave the squad three wins in its last four games. The Marlins have since dropped two straight and sport a 6-8 record and stand sixth in the eight-team East Division.
“Right now, we’re on a cold streak,” Campbell said before the Tuesday night game. “But I think we are going to come around. We have a lot of talent, and I have high hopes for us as the season goes along.”
Despite the team’s play, Campbell, a New Jersey native who is staying with host parent Becky Stewart, has surely enjoyed himself so far this summer along the Crystal Coast.
“I love the city,” he said. “There are nice people, lots of stuff to do, and I get to go to the beach a lot, which is nice. The weather is nice. It’s just a little hot right now.”
He played collegiate summer ball last year in Massachusetts but reports it’s night and day compared to his experience in the CPL.
“It’s just a lot different feel down here, Southern comfort and all,” he said. “There’s more stuff to do in this area.”
The Marlins’ record also hasn’t dampened his or the team’s spirit.
“I think we are coming together,” Campbell said. “We have to be friends and be nice to each other, making these long road trips on this small bus.”
“One thing goes wrong, and it could get ugly,” he added with a laugh.
Campbell has been on the field and in the batter’s box since he stepped on campus at Rutgers. He’s started 50 of 52 games as a freshman and started all 52 games this past season.
“Going forward, that gives me a lot of confidence,” he said. “You mature a lot playing against that level of competition that often. I’m hoping to improve a lot over these next two years.”
He scored 23 runs on 37 hits this past season, including 11 doubles and a home run. He tallied 23 RBIs and eight stolen bases and walked 23 times. He was third on the team in assists with 87 and had 31 fielded double plays, which ranked second on the team. He also recorded one save on the mound. As a freshman, he played 47 games at third base and three at shortstop. He was one of three freshman position players to start at least half of the games, and was named to the NJCBA All-State Rookie Team.
“I didn’t think I would play that much as a freshman, because there was a kid ahead of me at third,” he said. “But a spot opened up and I did pretty well, and they kept me there for the rest of the year.”
He was a four-year varsity starter at Sayreville War Memorial High School in Parlin, N.J., where he performed at shortstop and pitcher.
He holds the school record with 23 wins on the mound and helped Sayreville to a school-record 25-3 mark in 2012. He compiled a 9-1 record on the mound his senior year in 661/3 innings pitched with a 0.95 ERA and 87 strikeouts. He also batted .443 with 19 RBIs and 40 runs scored.
“I knew Rutgers was the place for me after high school,” Campbell said. “I wanted to stay close to home. I didn’t want to leave New Jersey. I loved everything about the school, and plus, I knew some kids going there. We all decided to go to Rutgers at the same time.”
Campbell comes from a baseball family. His older brother, Jake, played baseball for four years at Montclair State and is currently the pitching coach at Rutgers-Newark.
“I looked up to him my entire life,” he said. “He’s four years older, and I got to watch him go through college. I just never got to play on the same team with him. We never stop talking about baseball.”