E.A. Sports Today

New memory

Oxford native Campbell pitches gem as Choccolocco Monsters win second game of doubleheader with Waleska Wild Things.

Cover photo: Choccolocco Monsters pitcher Dawson Campbell pitches on the way to holding the Waleksa Wild Things to two hits in the nightcap of their Sunbelt League doubleheader on Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Dawson Campbell is that what-if kid for local baseball enthusiasts.

What if the Oxford native hadn’t moved to Georgia after seventh grade? What if the former 12-under Team USA player had played out his high school career at Oxford?

Thanks to the Choccolocco Monsters’ return to Oxford this season, and Campbell’s work on the mound, he’s giving his hometown crowd quite a show in black and gold.

The Sunbelt League’s ERA leader and major contributor to the league’s best team ERA held the Waleska Wild Things to two hits in six innings, and the Monsters won the second game of their doubleheader 4-1 on Wednesday on Choccolocco Park’s signature field.

Coming on the heels of the Monsters’ 5-4 loss in the opener, their victory kept the Monsters (15-7) within a game-and-a-half of the league-leading Gainesville GolDiggers (15-5), who beat the Cartersville Cannons 7-0 on Wednesday.

Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Monsters will play host to the GolDiggers on Friday and Saturday.

“Big one. Huge one,” Monsters coach Ricky Ray Clayton said. “Excited. That’s why you play the game and why you coach the game, this right here. They’ve got a good team, good coaches, and we are, too.”

The weekend series will see the return of pitcher Howell Polk, who spent the past two weeks on an internship in England. Wednesday’s doubleheader saw Jacksonville State University pitcher Will Baker make his Monsters debut, striking out five batters and allowing two hits and one earned run in 2 2/3 innings of relief.

Baker’s addition and that of Sunbelt Pitcher of the Week Andrew Allen, the Alexandria High grad who won his first two starts with the team, have answered early season worries about pitching depth. This for a team assembled late in the Sunbelt League offseason game.

The Monsters announced their move to Oxford and hiring of Roby Brooks as general manager in the spring.

The Monsters have a league-best 3.84 ERA, and Campbell stands at a league-best 1.36 through Wednesday’s action. The next-closest pitcher, Cartersville’s Ethan Carroll, stands at 2.55.

It all whets the appetite for a what-could’ve been discussion, had Campbell not moved to Marietta, Ga.

His dad changed jobs, and he moved. Life happens.

Campbell and his would-be Oxford teammates went on to similar glories. As a senior, he helped Pope High School win a state title in 2022. Led by Alabama Mr. Baseball and Monsters teammate Hayes Harrison, Oxford rolled to a state title in 2023.

“We swept the playoffs, just like Oxford did,” Campbell said. “We went, like, 33-7, and I think Oxford went 34-6 (39-6). It just, like, mirrored. Our seasons mirrored perfectly. I thought it was really cool.

“Obviously, those guys, I’ve known them, growing up, all of my life, and I was really happy for those guys because they earned it.”

Campbell just finished his sophomore season at Lander University. He pitched 2 2/3 innings in three appearances.

He appeared in 20 games with four starts as a freshman, including seven appearances and one start as a pitcher.

Brooks and Clayton know Campbell well, and Campbell was “pretty high” on the list of players they sought for the Monsters’ return season to Oxford after a year in Columbus, Ga.

The Sunbelt League is a summer wood-bat league for college players, with an emphasis on teams selecting local-appeal players. Campbell has pitched in six games with five starts, totaling 33 innings. He’s given up five earned runs and eight walks with 25 strikeouts.

Playing for the Monsters “just got me innings,” he said. “This past spring, I didn’t really get much, so this summer has really helped me just get acclimated again with throwing a lot of innings, really extending and just getting a better feel for myself.”

He worked 81 pitches with 48 strikes Wednesday. He was charged with one unearned run in the seventh inning. His 1.36 ERA for the game matched his 1.36 ERA for the season.

“Early on, I was just getting ahead, starting off with strikes, pounding the zone,” he said. “Towards the middle innings, I was getting behind a little bit, but I was able to get in the zone and get some swings and misses, but having a good defense behind me really helps.”

It gave local baseball fans a current-day picture and bridged them back to the days when Campbell made headlines, playing for his country.

“Shoot, man, being 12 years old and going to a different country with ‘USA’ across your chest, that was awesome,” he said. “It’s something not many people get the chance to do, and that’s really special, and I really appreaciate it. I think about it all of the time, just think back.

“A lot of those guys are playing professional baseball or big D-I baseball, and I follow those guys all of the time. It was just a great experience.”

Game updates

–First pitch, 5:05 p.m.
–T1: Waleska pushes two across, leads 2-0.
–B1: Cole Tremain gets a one-out double, but Monsters can’t get him home.
–T2: Nothing for Waleska. Still 2-0, Wild Things.
–B2: Nothing for the Monsters. Still 2-0, Wild Things.
–T3: The Monsters turn a 4-6-3 double play. Still 2-0.
–B3: Still 2-0, Wild Things.
–T4: Nothing doing for the Wild Things, still lead 2-0.
–B4: Mason Walker’s RBI single brings Monsters within 2-1. … Trey Higgins’ grounder plates another run to tie it 2-2. … Aggressive base running gets another run home as a fake steal attempt forces a catcher’s throw to first base. Runner at first out in a rundown, but the run scores. Monsters lead 3-0.
–T5: Louis Dion’s solo homer ties it, 3-3. … Pitching change for the Monsters (Will Baker for Will Tarpley).
–B5: Monsters go down in order. Still 3-3.
–T6: Nothing doing for the Wild Things. Still 3-3.
–B6: Jake Goolsby’s RBI single scores Rashad Robinson to put Monsters up 4-3.
–T7: Bases-loaded walk ties it 4-4. … Logan Floyd’s sac fly makes it 5-4, Wild Things.
–B7: Nothing for the Monsters.
FINAL: Waleska wins 5-4. Game 2 to follow.

Game 2

–T1: Dawson Campbell retires Wild Things in order.
–B1: Nothing doing for the Monsters.
–T2: Wild Things get one base runner, no runs.
–B2: Another zero for the Monsters.
–T3: Aaaannnnddd another zero for the Wild Things.
–B3: Monsters go down in order.
–T4: Campbell hangs another zero on the board.
–B4: Cole Tremain gets a leadoff double, but Monsters can’t advance him. Still 0-0.
–T5: Great game for pitching and fielding enthusiasts! Still 0-0.
–B5: Hugh Windle’s two-run single plates the game’s first two runs, and the Monsters lead 2-0. … Tate Morris scores from third on a pickoff throw to first, 3-0.
–T6: Campbell has a two-hitter thru six, and Monsters catcher Tate Morris has gunned down two runners with picture-perfect throws. Monsters lead 3-0.
–B6: Taylor Harris scores on a bases-loaded passed ball, 4-0.
–T7: Wild Things load the bases on no hits, get one across.
FINAL: Monsters win 4-1.

Photo gallery by Joe Medley

Games before the game: Choccolocco Monsters Hunter Humphries (left) and Eli Tidwell sharpen their reflexes and hand-eye coordination before playing Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.
Games before the game: Choccolocco Monsters infielder Joshua Cooper tries to get the ball to bounce and stick on the dugout’s second step before Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.
Games before the game: Choccolocco Monsters Fisher Moss (2) and Hayes Harrison toss the ball while trying to get it to stick on the dugout’s steel beam before Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.
Games before the game: Pageantry for the National Anthem before the Choccolocco Monsters’ Wednesday doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.
The Choccolocco Monsters watch as the Waleska Wild Things bat during Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.
Choccolocco Monsters bats line the dugout during Wednesday’s Sunbelt League doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park. The Sunbelt League is a summer wood-bat league for college players.
Choccolocco Monsters pitcher Will Tarpley comes out of his windup during Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.
Choccolocco Monsters catcher Sebastian Collender makes a pickoff throw to first base during Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.
Choccolocco Monsters pitcher Will Tarpley tries to beat Waleska Wild Things base runner Jackson Bradfield after a flip from first baseman Hayes Harrison Wednesday at Choccolocco Park.
Choccolocco Monsters batter Rashad Robinson watches an inside pitch as Waleska Wild Things catcher Dylan Martin tries to frameit during Wednesday’s doubleheader at Choccolocco Park.
Choccolocco Monsters batter Cole Tremain hits a double during Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.
Choccolocco Monsters batter Hayes Harrison watches his hit fly during Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Waleska Wild Things at Choccolocco Park.

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