Campbell shows right stuff at LMC

Former Unaka High star putting lid on distinguished career

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   When it comes to getting the job done in the Lady Bobcat outfield and in the classrooms of Lees-McRae College, DeeAnna Campbell is about as automatic as finding a toy prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.
   "DeeAnna is by far one of the most gifted academic and athletic kids I've ever had," Lees-McRae head softball coach Barb Russo said of her starting center fielder. "I don't care about her batting average -- it's her grade-point average that's most impressive.
   "Her glove does her talking on the field."
   Either a part or full-time starter during her three years in uniform for the Banner Elk, N.C. school, Campbell, who bounced back from a medical redshirt (ACL injury) sophomore season, has built quite a college portfolio -- both on the field and off.
   "It's been worth it," said the Lady Bobcat senior, a former Unaka High star under coach Ronnie Hicks. "I've had fun every year, even when I didn't get to play. It's been a blast hanging out with the girls and stuff. I feel like it's been a learning experience, and I've enjoyed it."
   Now in the final stage of her distinguished career -- she won't make up the medical redshirt -- Campbell, a Lady Bobcat tri-captain; and her teammates are presently in Florence, S.C. competing in the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference tournament.
   "It's pretty much anybody's game now, as long as we bring our defense out," Campbell said of her club's chances.
   Following the postseason Campbell will trade in her cleats for a cap and gown, and graduate from Lees-McRae on May 11 with a degree in business administration.
   Graduation day will top off a sterling classroom career for Campbell, a four-time Academic All-American who currently sports a 3.915 grade-point average. She'll likely claim a share of the Fred I. Dickerson award, which annually goes to the two Lees-McRae senior athletes with the highest GPAs.
   "Academically, I couldn't be more proud of a kid," Russo said.
   With a bright future ahead of her, Campbell sounds anxious to get her college diploma.
   "I'll miss the girls and stuff, but I feel like I'm ready to move on," she said. "I'm looking forward to getting out of school."
   Campbell, who plans to continue her education in graduate school, will take some pleasant softball memories with her.
   Topping her list of team highlights is the Lady Bobcats' runner-up finish in the conference tournament her freshman campaign.
   "That was totally unexpected," she said. "We were big underdogs that year."
   A home-run saving catch in a fall-league game against Wingate ranked among Campbell's individual highlights.
   "The home-run catch would be one of the highlights because we beat them 1-0," Campbell noted. "That was pretty exciting."
   Although not known for her offense, Campbell has delivered with the bat on numerous occasions.
   She manufactured an eight-game hitting streak this season, recording a 3-for-4, 2-RBI performance against Barton College along the way.
   "She has come through in some big situations," Russo said.
   Intangibles have also played a role in Campbell's contributions to the Lady Bobcat cause.
   Asked what she looks to bring to the team on an everyday basis, she responded: "A little bit of leadership, and trying to keep the team together and everything going smooth. It hasn't been that hard. Everybody really works well together, anyway."
   Campbell's toughness certainly can't be questioned. She's overcome a significant injury to produce a playing career she can feel good about.
   "I'm pretty satisfied," she said. "I had to come back after surgery, and that's the hardest thing I did because I lost so much. That took away about half of my ability. After that, it was just rebuilding."
   Of course, it's neither Campbell's softball percentages nor her grade-point average that will likely be most remembered at Lees-McRae.
   When it comes to being a good person, Campbell is batting close to a thousand.
   "If you could pick one player and say you would like to have a dozen of that kid, that's DeeAnna," said Russo. "Without a doubt."