OMAHA, Neb. -- Isaiah Campbell had his fastball working in the bullpen, but not much else.
He brought his plus fastball, a rediscovered cut fastball and a full load of nerve to the mound at TD Ameritrade Park in the biggest start of his career Friday against the Florida Gators and first-round draft pick Brady Singer.
Campbell pitched his Arkansas Razorbacks to the championship round at the College World Series with a two-hitter over 52/3 innings. He had a perfect game through four innings and struck out eight, the most by an Arkansas pitcher at the College World Series.
"That's what he looked like all fall," Arkansas ace Blaine Knight said. "That's just what he does.
"Isaiah's a really, really good pitcher. I've said it a hundred times, he's got the best stuff on the team, hands down. It's just a matter if everything clicks. It did and he got us off on a good start and we're going to carry it over."
Campbell also gave the Razorbacks four strong innings in their 14-4 victory over South Carolina on June 11, the game that sent Arkansas to Omaha. The 6-4 right-hander, nicknamed "The Professor" by pitching coach Wes Johnson, has delivered in back-to-back series clinchers after not making it out of the first inning of his start in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional against Dallas Baptist.
"I can't say enough about the young man, how proud I am of him and the work that he's put in over the last couple of weeks," Johnson said.
"We got away with two pitches tonight. The young man threw fastball, cutter and that was it. We called two change-ups and one curveball."
Campbell said he approached every batter like it could be his last.
"I just went with the fastball and cutter today, and it was actually funny, because the cutter was the worst pitch in the bullpen," Campbell said. "But I found it in the game and just attacked the strike zone, let my defense do the work."
Campbell had pitched once against Florida this season and it resulted in the Hogs' worst loss of the season. He gave up 6 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks and lasted just an inning in a 17-2 loss in Gainesville, Fla. Campbell had not mentioned to the coaches that he entered the game with a sore arm that caused him to miss his start the following week.
"I had it in the back of my mind when I woke up this morning," Campbell said of that ill-fated start. "I know I didn't help the team at all in that start. It's one of my worst starts of the year.
"I didn't think about it too much once I got to the field. I was just all ready for the night, just giving our team a chance to win."
The Gators did not expect to see this version of Campbell, the one that sent them packing in Omaha with an overpowering fastball.
"I would say he was throwing way more strikes, and his fastball was playing up," Florida senior JJ Schwarz said. "It was a lot harder than the radar gun was showing, and I think that was evident by our swings."
Florida Coach Kevin O'Sullivan was asked if he thought Campbell pitched better than he thought.
"I'll answer it honestly," O'Sullivan said. "Yeah, a lot better than I thought. He had a perfect game through four. Didn't walk anybody.
"Once we got him in the stretch, seemed like he lost some of his command, but he was certainly a different pitcher than we saw in Gainesville, that's for sure.
"I mean it was 94, 96 and he was pounding the outer half of the zone and threw enough off-speed pitches to keep us off his fastball. He was good, really good, tonight."
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn led off his post-game press conference by praising Campbell.
"It really started with Isaiah Campbell tonight," he said. "He had a perfect game going into the fifth and only a couple of balls really were hit hard.
"He had his fastball going. Looked like it was running downhill to me. Threw a really nice cutter, a couple of change-ups, sliders, mostly fastball/cutter."
Arkansas closer Matt Cronin liked what he saw from his fellow sophomore.
"Isaiah, I thought he was electric out there," Cronin said. "He went 42/3 perfect, and I think he put us in a good spot to win this game really early and kind of shut them down."
Johnson said he had a good feeling about Campbell leaving the bullpen prior to the game.
"You just don't know how long he's gonna go and how long the fuel is going to stay in the tank," Johnson said. "But he was lights out in the bullpen. Of course we went through our same game routine. We had Blaine and Kacey [Murphy] down there pumping him up. That helped. And I can't say enough about him. I'm really happy for him."
At a glance
Oregon State 5, Mississippi State 2
Mississippi State eliminated.
MONDAY’S GAME 1
Arkansas vs. Oregon State, 6 p.m.
Sports on 06/24/2018
Print Headline: Campbell's effort delivers Hogs into title round