If the North Carolina State softball team hopes to get an NCAA regional berth, just about all of those hopes are pinned to Templeton native Lindsay Campana.
The former Templeton High star and Cuesta College pitcher is wrapping up the last of three decorated seasons with the Wolfpack, a career capped with a proud accomplishment in her academic life, too.
The drop-ball specialist ranks 12th in the nation with a 1.19 ERA and in establishing herself as one of the top pitchers in the country, has never had and ERA above 1.86 at North Carolina State. But one thing Campana has yet to do is lead the Wolfpack to the postseason.
“I would love to play in one,” Campana said. “We came really, really close my sophomore year and our name never showed up on the selection show. This year would be the best time to go. We haven’t gone the last couple years, and there’s a lot of pressure for us to go.”
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North Carolina State (28-26, 9-12 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost in the ACC Tournament final in 2008 and was not selected by the NCAA. A fifth-place finisher in the ACC this season, the Wolfpack may need to win the conference tournament’s automatic bid for any chance to advance in Campana’s senior year.
North Carolina State takes on rival North Carolina (39-17, 11-10 ACC) in the quarterfinal round of the ACC Tournament at 4:30 p.m. today at Virginia Tech.
“You win it all, and you know you’re going,” Wolfpack head coach Lisa Navas said. “If we lose, I think we would be out completely. If we win one, that gets us in the hunt. If we win two, then I feel a lot better, but three is the only one that guarantees us.”
And Campana’s miniscule ERA is the key for an offense that averages slightly more than three runs per game itself. Aside from a lopsided series against No. 7 Georgia Tech, the Wolfpack’s past four ACC games have resulted in either 1-0 or 2-0 shutouts.
“We always knew that we’re going to go as far as she goes,” Navas said.
Tabbed by Navas as one of the best Wolfpack pitchers since the program was founded in 2004, Campana is proud of the numbers she’s put up on the field, but she cites a recent academic honor as her most exalted achievement.
Campana was named Applied Psychology Student of the Year after organizing a senior project that connected developmentally disabled children with student athletes on the softball field.
Campana recruited fellow athletes and paired them as buddies with children she got to know as an intern for Maxim Healthcare. They played a two-inning softball game where every child got to hit, run the bases and score.
The theme of the event was to boost self-esteem through team sports.
“I was nervous getting to it because you can only plan to a certain point,” Campana said. “Then when the actual event happens, not everything goes according to plan. Someone’s bound to run to third base.
“But it couldn’t have gone better. It went better than I could have planned out.”
From a family rooted in Templeton for generations, Campana said she will become the first to graduate from a four-year university.
She said she somewhat underestimated North Carolina State’s respected academic reputation — the university is the 21st-best value in the latest U.S. News and World Reports national rankings — when she committed to play there after her freshman season at Cuesta in 2006. She was the Cuesta Female Athlete of the Year her one season there.
But she almost didn’t end up in Raleigh.
Set on leaving the Cougars after one season, Campana verbally committed to Mercer, a small Division I university in Georgia that competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
When Navas scouted her at a summer event and offered Campana a chance to play for the Wolfpack, she had to back out of her earlier commitment to sign with North Carolina State.
“When it came down to it, the coach was not happy, but it had to be kind of for me,” Campana said. “This was kind of a big deal. I had to not worry about people’s feelings.”
Because North Carolina State wasn’t immediately in need of her services, Campana used her sophomore year at Cuesta as a redshirt year and arrived in Raleigh, N.C. for the 2008 season.
In her one season with the Cougars, Campana set five school records, and that was coming off a career in which she led Templeton High to four straight CIF-Central Section titles — the first of six straight for the school.
The Eagles took criticism in those days for dominating weaker competition. In Campana’s freshman season, Templeton beat league foe Avenal 45-0, and some questioned how well the Eagles would compete in a Southern Section league.
Perhaps the biggest vindication of those titles for Templeton, a census-designated community of about five square miles whose high school enrollment was only around 700 at the time, has been Campana’s individual success at the college level.
“It was awesome to win those championships, and they weren’t easy,” Campana said. “Some of the girls I play with now, they say, ‘Well, my high school was nationally ranked.’ That’s really cool, but people don’t really know where Templeton is.
“Being able to be recognized is really cool, especially to a kid out of Templeton.”