Everything was going great for Brunswick’s Gabbi Campbell as she prepared for her senior season with the Blue Devils softball team.
A three-year starter and captain, Campbell was already committed to play at the Division I level in college and expecting great things in her final campaign.
It was all going swimmingly.
And then it wasn’t.
On March 20, Eastern Michigan announced it was cutting women’s tennis, wrestling, men’s swimming and softball. Suddenly, Campbell was left without a scholarship.
The 2018 Gazette MVP could have crawled into a shell and played out the string. Instead, she put together one of the most incredible seasons in Medina County history.
“I was probably the first adult she saw after she found out,” Brunswick coach Julie Salzman said. “She came down to the gym, and I’ve never seen this kid cry. She was in tears and was like, ‘Salz, what am I going to do?’ We went in the office and called her dad. By the time we were done, she had calmed down.
I went home and thought to myself that I have to do something because this kid has to have the season of a lifetime right now.
“I didn’t have to do anything. She did it all on her own. She came in the next day, she was ready to go, and that was right before the Tennessee trip (to start the season). She was a different person. She always worked hard, led by example and all that stuff, but she stepped it up a level.”
When the final out was recorded in the University of Akron Regional D-I semifinal, Campbell finished a season where she broke county records for home runs (12) and runs (52) in a season while setting 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 for hits (160), runs (131), RBIs (104) and total bases (275).
Campbell 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) while putting up a .559 on-base percentage and adding 10 doubles.
“In the blink of an eye, my life was flipped upside down,” Campbell said. “It motivated me more than anything to push myself to be the best I could be this season just to get myself out there and get coaches to come out and see me. It taught me to really appreciate the game a lot more because you never know what can happen.
“That focus made me 100 times a better player. That showed me to be the best I could be and give 110 percent every day. No matter if it was practice, scrimmage or a game, I needed to show people who I was.”
The scholarship will come soon as she not only caught the attention of college coaches, but high school coaches as well.
Her incredible range at shortstop meant balls hit in the hole were sure outs and shots up the box were double play specials.
Campbell’s 92 assists and 44 putouts proved just how strong she was with the glove, as did her .958 fielding percentage at the hardest position on the field.
“She plays the position like no other kid I’ve seen at shortstop,” Wadsworth coach Mike Schmeltzer Sr. said. “She was truly amazing. From what I understand, her game was typical Gabbi Campbell. It just amazed me.
“She literally took that game, which I think would have been a very good, close game, and took it away from us defensively. She made no mistakes, and then offensively she just picked up where she left off at the defensive end. She’s an amazing kid, she really is.”
The Grizzlies fell victim to quite possibly the best all-around performance in a 24-hour period by a softball player in county history.
After going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs in a 6-2 win over Mentor the night before, she came into the Strike Out Cancer Showcase on April 20 and almost singlehandedly beat Wadsworth (9-6) and Cloverleaf (4-0).
Campbell opened with two singles and added a home run against the Grizzlies and then hit two more home runs against the Colts before Cloverleaf coach John Carmigiano walked her two times.
In the games against Wadsworth and Cloverleaf, she also had 14 assists.
“To actually face Gabbi is a scary scenario,” Carmigiano said. “Watching her play this year was such a pleasure. She can dominate offensively to the point where you just want to walk her. She did so much to help Brunswick this year.”
What Campbell is most proud of, however, is being the center piece of a team that went 24-7 and reached the round of 16 for the first time since 2006.
“That means more than anyone can imagine,” she said. “There’s so much potential and so much character on our team. For me to be considered one of the stars on that team, I would never guess when I was a freshman that I would be talked about like this.”