By STEVE KRAH
Ryan Campbell has experienced variety as a top-notch baseball pitcher.
At Carmel (Ind.) High School, the right-hander delivered from a low arm slot as a three-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree.
That attracted the attention of the University of Pittsburgh and he hurled for the Panthers in 2015, going 1-0, striking out seven and walking three in 16 innings (all in relief). Pitt’s head coach was Joe Jordano with Jerry Oakes as pitching Coach.
Wishing to change his delivery to more of a three-quarter overhand, Campbell transferred to Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., where his head coach was Rob Fournier.
His 2016 performance at the junior college — 4-3 with five saves, 2.52 earned run average, 37 strikeouts and 11 walks and 35 2/3 innings in 25 games (all out of the bullpen) — got Campbell a spot back at the NCAA Division I level with the University of Illinois-Chicago.
With the UIC Flames, Campbell made 16 mound appearances (14 in relief) and went 1-1 with a 3.00 earned run average, 17 strikeouts and 11 walks in 24 innings in 2017.
Working with head coach/pitching coach Mike Dee, Campbell was a starter in all 13 of his 2018 games and went 7-3 with a 1.53 ERA, 68 strikeouts and 19 walks in 94 innings as the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year.
He was also honored as NCBWA/Rawlings Third-Team All-America and ABCA All-Mideast Region.
“Soup” Campbell was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cincinnati Reds and is now with the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs of the Short Season Class-A Pioneer League. So far, he’s made four appearances — three in relief.
Jay Lehr has been working with Campbell for eight years — all four as Carmel pitching coach and with the Indiana Mustangs travel organization and since then at Power Alley Baseball Academy in Noblesville, Ind.
“He’s so strong and has the endurance,” says Lehr, who was Carmel head coach during Campbell’s sophomore year and pitching coach under Dan Roman during his junior and senior campaigns. “You don’t see a lot of sidearmers start, but he has that workhorse mentality. He has a very loose arm so he’s able to (move his release point around).”
Why the change to a higher release?
“I just didn’t feel confident in my stuff when I was down low,” says Campbell, a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder. “Over the last three years, I’ve found this arm slot and gotten more consistent with it.”
Campbell, 22, throws a two-seam fastball that sinks and runs and gets up to 95 mph, a slider and a “Vulcan” change-up. The ball is held with his middle finger and ring finger to the side of the ball and the index finger toward the top and pronates at release to give it that heavy sink.
Big league pitchers Lance Lynn and Drew Storen also train at Power Alley in the off-season and served as mentors for Campbell.
“It’s been nice for him to get that quality information before he got drafted — what to focus on and not to focus on,” says Lehr. “Ryan has a tremendous work ethic and great support at home.
Ryan’s parents are Bruce and Lora Campbell. His four older siblings are Andrew Campbell, Sean Campbell and Brent Baker.
“As a pitcher, he has short memory when it comes to putting things behind him,” says Lehr. “He doesn’t let stuff get to him. He moves on.”
A two-time scholar athlete at Carmel, Campbell was an information decision sciences in college.
To say there’s a lot of travel in the Pioneer League is an understatement. For Billings, it’s 519 miles to Ogden, Utah, 592 to Orem, Utah, and 659 to Grand Junction, Colo.
The closest trips are 219 miles to Great Falls, Mont., 240 to Helena, Mont., 343 to Missoula, Mont., and 345 to Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Reds affiliates above Billings are Low Class-A Dayton (Ohio) Dragons, High-A Daytona (Fla.) Tortugas, Double-A Pensacola (Fla.) Blue Wahoos and Triple-A Louisville (Ky.) Bats.
Ryan Campbell, a 2014 Carmel High School graduate, is now in the Cincinnati Reds organization with the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs. He is a right-handed pitcher. (Billings Mustangs Photo)