McDowell High senior pitcher Juan Campos has a sneaky fastball and a wicked splitter, and he’s working diligently on his changeup.
But Campos’ coach said none of those pitches is the best asset he’ll bring to King University, where he signed earlier this week.
“Juan’s best attribute is not necessarily his fastball or his changeup; it’s his ability to compete,” said Titans head coach Alex Smith. “He competes every time he goes out there. He understands the importance of getting ahead and throwing strikes. Even if he doesn’t have his best stuff on that night, he still challenges hitters and he doesn’t give in.
“He makes big pitches in big moments and he did that all year for us last year.”
Campos was a workhorse for the Titans as a junior, putting in 43 1/3 innings on the mound, second on the team. He went 1-4 with one save and a 4.36 earned run average. Campos struck out 39 and walked 25. He followed up that success with a solid season for the Burke County Post 21 American Legion team.
Campos said he’s excited about taking the next step and looks forward to settling in at King’s Bristol, Tenn. campus.
“At the beginning of the year, I was kind of worried about what college I wanted to go to, but I prayed a whole lot,” said Campos. “God has blessed me with an opportunity to play at King, and when I went there, I thought it was a good fit for me. It’s not too far away from home.”
Choosing a college early was important to Campos, who said he’s working on honing his craft in the offseason.
“Recently, I’ve been working on more of a changeup grip,” he said. “Some days I throw it good and some days not too good. So that’s the pitch I’m working on the most. The pitch I like to throw the most is my split-finger. I can about throw it any count and I feel really confident in that pitch.”
Campos said a successful Legion season helped him trust his stuff.
“My teammates helped me with my confidence,” he said. “I felt a lot smoother playing Legion. In varsity, I was a little shaky this season because I hadn’t really been on the big diamond yet and the game was a whole lot faster than I expected. But over a while, I adapted to it.”
That’s for sure. After getting off to a relatively slow start to the 2017 high school campaign, Campos emerged as the Titans’ clear-cut No. 2 starter behind senior Matt Smith. Coach Smith said he expects Campos to shoulder even more responsibility next spring, but said he’s sure Campos is up to the task.
“I’m so proud of him and of any time the sport we play gives a kid an opportunity to go to college,” said Smith. “That’s a goal of his. He came here wanting to play baseball as long as he can, and now he’s going to get a college education and continue playing baseball.”
King went 29-19 overall last season and 10-12 in the NCAA Div. II Conference of the Carolinas. They are coached by Blaine Brown, who is in his eighth season with the Tornados.