Evan Campbell doesn't put a lot of thought into his outfield play. Natural instincts usually takes over.
The Kent State junior center fielder covers a lot of ground for the Golden Flashes.
During the first game of the Super Regional against Oregon, it was Campbell's defensive heroics that gave KSU (46-18) a 7-6 victory and eventually vaulted KSU to the College World Series today in Omaha, Neb.
The Golden Flashes take on Arkansas (44-20) at 5 p.m. in their opening game.
Campbell's leaping, turn-around catch in deep left-center field saved No. 13-ranked Kent State out of a two-out, bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Ducks last Saturday.
"I'm not thinking anything than just expecting the ball to be hit to me, just letting my instincts work," said Campbell, a West Branch graduate.
Freshman teammate Alex Miklos, who plays left field, said it was amazing to see Campbell's prowess.
"I wish they would hit it to me a little bit more," Miklos said. "I got the opportunity to play next to Evan and it's been great to see him show off his range a little bit and get to these balls a lot of people thought were going to get in."
Speaking of people, the fans at Oregon were a little more feisty than what KSU has played in front of before.
"They had a good fan base, tons of fans," Campbell said. "They were pretty brutal on us. Fans in the outfield were pretty harsh on us, riding us pretty hard. They never let up. When they were down, they were still riding us hard. When they were up, that place just erupted. That place was so loud. Maintaing your focus was kind of tough, fighting through that atmosphere, but it was pretty awesome."
The Ducks fans even had a surprise for Miklos.
"Their student section was right behind me out there in left field," Miklos said. "I was putting up with close to 400 fans or something. They actually got a cardboard cutout of my sister for the last game. It was fun. It was a good atmosphere."
But, KSU was prepared for Oregon's 10th man.
"Being from Kent State and a mid-major, you don't get crowds like that," Campbell said. "The few weeks leading up to that was preparation for that. We had a lot of fans coming out and this team really expanded. We went to Texas and there were more fans there. It was the same kind of atmosphere. We're kind of battle-tested a little bit. We were used to it."
But, it still has to sink in that KSU, with a school-record 46 wins, is heading to the College World Series. The Golden Flashes are the first MAC school to make it to Omaha since Eastern Michigan did so in 1976.
"Knowing it's real and seeing it on ESPN is crazy," Campbell said. "Seeing we're one of the final eight teams is incredible."
As for Campbell's defense, seeing is believing. Ask Oregon.
"Coach always stresses to us, 'You can make more of an impact with your glove sometimes than you can with your bat,' " he said. "Playing defense is really important."