BRUNSWICK — Gabbi Campbell was finally able to put a nice bow on her senior season when she committed to the University of Tennessee Martin on Monday.
The 2018 Gazette MVP had her future planned before the season started, but then Eastern Michigan dropped its softball program and left the four-year starter scurrying.
It put a drive in Campbell that even surprised her at times.
“I’ve never been so worried that I wasn’t going to find another school and things weren’t going to work out for me not to be playing college ball,” Campbell said. “That drove my determination to a level I’ve never been at before just to prove to everyone that I deserve to be playing at a Division I level.”
That drive helped her set Medina County records for home runs (12) and runs (52) in a season, while establishing the career mark for home runs (22).
She also broke a single season mark for Brunswick with 104 total bases and set school career marks in hits (160), runs (131), RBIs (104) and total bases (275).
Schools were interested right away as Hampton, Buffalo, Akron, Indiana, Villanova and Youngstown State started inquiring about her services.
When Campbell found out about UTM through Wadsworth pledge Maddie Long and Grizzlies coach Mike Schmeltzer Sr. on April 21, things amped up quickly.
Skyhawks head coach Donley Canary drove up to Barberton to watch his future star play Highland in a Division I District semifinal and Campbell scheduled an official visit a few weeks later.
The fact UT Martin has posted a 552-420-2 mark in 17 seasons under Canary was attractive to Campbell as were NCAA berths in 2009 and 2012 and a NIT trip in 2017.
The fact Canary drove 585 just to watch her play was the tipping point.
“Coach Canary really made me feel like he was going to take care of me being nine hours away from home,” Campbell said. “I knew I would have the biggest opportunity to play college ball there. That just showed me how much I meant to them. To see him come nine hours to watch me play and then go back home, that was the deal breaker (for all the other schools) for me.”
Campbell isn’t just going down to UTM to fill a roster spot for the Skyhawks.
The opportunity is there for Campbell to grab playing time if not start.
She led the area in slugging percentage (.972), was second in OPS (1.531), hits (52) and triples (3) and fifth in batting average (.486) and RBIs (36), so it’s not out of the realm of possibility to be playing right away. Canary told the standout the only position in the infield not available was first base.
“I’m going in with the intention of playing right away,” Campbell said. “I just have to work for it. He said he could see me playing at any position because there’s competition at each position.”
Campbell, who prefers shortstop, is open to playing anywhere, but is excited to show everyone why she should be playing at the top level.
“I plan to show him how hard-working I am and how my leadership skills will (translate) at short,” Campbell said. “I want to show him I’m the real deal. I’m dedicated. I came here for one thing and one thing only and that’s to play.”