W hen Christine Campbell was 8 years old, she was outside playing baseball with her brothers, throwing the ball in a circular, underhand motion, similar to that of a softball pitch.
Campbell’s father took notice and signed his daughter up to play. After her first year in the game, Campbell made the local softball all-star team and hasn’t left the mound in 13 years.
Campbell, now a junior, is the top pitcher for Lehigh’s softball team, leading her team in win percentage and ERA and ranked in the top five of the Patriot League in both categories. Last season, she was named first-team All-Patriot League, placing second in the league among pitchers in ERA and shutouts.
Campbell started playing on travel teams year-round in sixth grade and played for both her school and a travel team during her time in high school in San Diego, California.
“Travel ball was pretty much year-round because in California you could play-year round,” Campbell said. “We got two weeks off for Christmas and two weeks off for summer and that was about it.”
Her travel ball experience is what brought Campbell onto Lehigh coach Fran Troyan’s recruiting radar. Campbell was discovered on her travel team, the SoCal Breakers, which Troyan and his staff had been watching while recruiting her teammate, Emma Capetz, ’15.
Both Capetz and Campbell are listed in the SoCal Breakers Hall of Fame as athletes who have contributed greatly to the organization. Troyan and Campbell started emailing back and forth, ultimately leading to Campbell choosing to come to Lehigh.
It was the change-up that got her there.
“At our level, being able to throw pitches at different speed is really important,” Troyan said. “(Campbell) had a great change-up that we saw during the recruitment process, and she came here, and sure enough, it has really worked well at the collegiate level as well.”
Coming in freshman year, Campbell had a 10-7 record while leading the team in shutouts, with her first collegiate career win being a shutout against Sacred Heart University. She was the Patriot League Player of the Week twice.
Since then, Campbell has added a drop ball to her resume that senior catcher Carissa Zito said has progressed really well. Troyan said adding the drop ball has given Campbell another pitch that she can add to her arsenal and one that looks different to the batters.
“It’s been fun to work with her and work on her pitches,” Zito said. “She has definitely progressed.”
Campbell, though, is still working through some challenges.
Campbell’s biggest struggle as a pitcher has been the amount of free bases she gives up, a point of frustration for Troyan. Campbell currently leads the league in hit batters and walks, which Troyan sees as holding her back from moving from a great pitcher to one of the best pitchers.
“The combination of hit batters and bases on balls, if she could shore that up, she could go from being a truly outstanding pitcher to one of the better pitchers that we have ever had in our program,” Troyan said.
Whenever Campbell gives up a free base, Zito goes out to the circle to pull her back into the game. Zito said she gives Campbell a handshake and tells her to pitch like she knows how to pitch.
“She will just look at me and shake her head,” Zito said. “We have that connection where she just knows that I am there for her and she has me behind the plate.”
Campbell said Zito’s presence behind the plate for her has helped her progress and succeed over the past few years because Zito know how to talk to her. Campbell said Zito has been there and has been guiding her through the whole process.
“One of the biggest mental struggles as a pitcher is handling the pressure of the game.”
— CHRISTINE CAMPBELL
Campbell said one of the biggest things she has learned through playing softball both at Lehigh and back in California is how to be coachable. She’s learned how to take criticism without getting defensive. This is a lesson Campbell has applied outside of the field and in the classroom, and one she sees helping her in her professional career.
“I know it’s not my way or the highway,” Campbell said. “You have to listen to people who are trying to teach you and not take it defensively. Don’t defend yourself, just accept what they are saying and learn from it.”
Campbell has been able to use this lesson to transform her own perception of leadership and her leadership style. Throughout her time playing on different teams, Campbell has been able to observe many leaders and types of leadership, which has taught her how to carry herself on the field.
Through all of this, Campbell has learned how to adapt to people and their personalities.
Troyan said Campbell brings an infectious personality and high energy to games and practice. He said she is both loved and respected by her teammates and peers, as well as the coaching staff.
Campbell’s teammates have noticed this, too. Junior utility player Vicky Lattanzio said the Campbell always has a smile on her face while being one of the hardest working girls on the team.
“No matter what, she always brings energy,” Lattanzio said. “Whether it’s in the weight room, or the field, or even outside of softball.”
Campbell’s favorite parts of playing softball has nothing to do with the sport itself but rather with the family dynamic of the team. Campbell considers the women to be her sisters and says she knows pretty much everything about everyone.
Of the 18 Lehigh players, 11 are from California, which Campbell said adds to the family feeling. However, Campbell also credits the East Coast families, saying it’s that group that welcomes the West Coast players. Campbell said a lot of the East Coast parents will travel to the games, and she considers many of the team parents to be her own.
“I can name a ton of parents that I treat like my parents just because it is such a family atmosphere, and it’s a good dynamic that we have on the team,” Campbell said. “I love it.”
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