‘Yes we Cam’ campaign highlights year of the catcher

William Blount catcher Cameron Campbell extends her mitt for the pitch during the District 4AAA tournament last week at William Blount.

Photo by Jenifer Clark

William Blount catcher Cameron Campbell extends her mitt for the pitch during the District 4AAA tournament last week at William Blount.

Maryville catcher Haley Hilliard hangs onto a hot pitch on the inside corner.

Photo by Jenifer Clark

Maryville catcher Haley Hilliard hangs onto a hot pitch on the inside corner.

Lady Governor catcher Cameron Campbell, far left, was named most valuable player of last week’s District 4AAA tournament at William Blount.

Photo by Jenifer Clark

Lady Governor catcher Cameron Campbell, far left, was named most valuable player of last week’s District 4AAA tournament at William Blount.

Maryville was closing.

The Lady Rebels had runners at first and second with no one out. The William Blount lead was now down to a single run with Meredith Elmore at the plate in the bottom of the seventh in the district championship game. When Elmore promptly singled to left on a one-ball, two-strike count, the Lady Governors were in big trouble.

Cameron Campbell blew it all up with one brilliant throw.

Maryville’s Ciera LaGrange got home when the throw from left got away from Campbell at the plate. Just as quickly the William Blount catcher gathered herself and fired a strike to third base to pick off a runner trying to advance.

“That was huge,” William Blount coach Amanda Leatherwood said. “She puts a lot of pressure on herself. She could have easily gotten down on herself. She’s so clutch, and she’s got a very team-first attitude. She just gets it done for her team.”

Campbell’s quick thinking and powerful right arm loomed even larger when Lady Governor ace Erica Tuck fanned the next batter for the second out of the inning. William Blount third baseman Natalie Payne then ended things last Thursday, forcing out LaGrange at second on a fielder’s choice to lift the Lady Governors to a stirring, 8-7 championship game win.

Campbell’s decisive action was part of a big, big week for the Union College signee. Her sacrifice fly in the sixth had pushed home fellow senior Hannah Smith with what proved the eventual winning run. Three days earlier, Campbell’s walk-off, two-run homer in the ninth had lifted the Lady Governors into the championship game with a 6-4 win over Farragut.

For her efforts, Campbell was named the tournament’s most valuable player as William Blount ended Maryville’s run of four consecutive district tournament titles.

“I call her a fourth coach on the field,” Leatherwood said. “She’s one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever been around, and she really listens.”

The extra-inning bomb against Farragut made Campbell an instant celebrity, with students and teammates honoring her with “Yes we Cam” T-shirts proudly on display at the next game. It’s not a common thing for a catcher to be so acclaimed, but then the performance of all three of Blount County’s three receivers in District 4AAA softball this season has been anything but common.

Maryville sophomore Haley Hilliard, Heritage sophomore McKenzie Sherman and Campbell have each enjoyed award-winning seasons this spring. All three have scary-strong throwing arms. Each calls the pitches for their respective battery mates.

“(Campbell) and Erica have done a great job,” Leatherwood said.

Offensively, catchers just don’t hit like this.

Payne will lead the Lady Governors into Friday’s sectional round with a team-best .515 batting average, but Campbell’s robust .447 is certainly a keeper. Campbell’s four home runs and .691 slugging percentage sets the pace for William Blount, her 11 doubles even with Tuck for the team lead.

“Natalie and Hannah do a good job of getting on base,” Leatherwood said, “and Cameron is getting them in.”

It was more than enough to earn the Lady Governor backstop an all-district selection. Hilliard and Sherman put up impressive numbers themselves to join her on the squad.

Hilliard’s slugging percentage (.762) was on the moon entering postseason play. Her seven doubles and six triples were easily Lady Rebel bests. Remember, she’s a catcher.

Hilliard’s 20 RBI before last week trailed only All-American junior shortstop Bry Blanco for the lead in that category as well.

The Lady Rebels and Lady Governors met for the sixth time this season on Wednesday in the region championship game to decide who would travel for sectionals and who would host.

Sherman is giving little ground to rivals. A product of one of the county’s most successful middle school programs at Eagleton, the Lady Mountaineer field captain set the tone for Heritage this season with a .333 batting average and 11 doubles. Her 15 runs batted in rank second.

Throw in a team-leading three home runs, and, like Hilliard, we’re talking about a young, emerging talent that could help keep Blount County atop District 4AAA softball for the foreseeable future.

All-district team

The following players from Heritage, Maryville and William Blount were named to the 2011 All-District 4AAA Softball Team at the conclusion of last week’s league tournament: Bry Blanco, Haley Hilliard, Jessica Connaster (Maryville); Erica Tuck, Hannah Smith, Cameron Campbell, Natalie Payne (William Blount); Katie Brown, Madison Carpenter, McKenzie Sherman (Heritage).

Maryville pitcher Allison Barbee was named District 4AAA Player of the Year. Co-Coaches of the year were Maryville’s David Allen and Catholic’s Sarah Fekete Bailey.

© 2011 blounttoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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