Campbellsville gains NAIA Series berth
Bryan Fuller told his Campbellsville University coaches he was never going to play baseball professionally, so he was willing to sacrifice his arm.
With much debate and reluctance, but knowing what was at stake and what their other options were, his coaches acquiesced.
Fuller, a senior, ended up pitching 21 shutout innings in 26 hours as Campbellsville (Ky.) advanced to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, where on Friday it will face Lee (Tenn.).
Campbellsville had fallen into the loser's bracket in its NAIA super regional, and needed to win three straight to get the World Series berth. Against Lindenwood on Thursday, Fuller, who throws sidearm, pitched three scoreless innings for the save.
With just 25 minutes between games, Campbellsville's coaches decided to start Fuller in the next game, against Kansas Wesleyan, which had won 26 straight. Fuller, according to assistant coach Jake McKinley, "is an undersized kid" who had started only once previously in four seasons.
"We were nearly out of pitching and he looked comfortable," McKinley said. "We told Fuller we would need him to make his second career start and if he could give us three or four innings, that would be great, and it was in the biggest game in the history of our program against a team that had won 26 straight games."
Fuller ended up pitching a complete game as Campbellsville snapped Kansas Wesleyan's winning streak with a 11-0 victory.
That put Campbellsville in the final. According to McKinley, the coaches were prepared to start their No. 1 pitcher on two days' rest, but Fuller wanted the start.
"We told him no way, because we didn't want to hurt him ... He just threw 12 innings the day before," McKinley said. "He told us that he was a senior that will never play pro ball and he was going to be an accountant in just a few weeks. He said he didn't care about his arm and told us he will give us a chance to win."
And he did, using just 77 pitches in his second consecutive complete-game shutout as Campbellsville (39-10) beat Kansas Wesleyan again 4-0, giving the Tigers their first NAIA World Series appearance in school history.
"We're not sure yet, but we are not opposed to using him in any role," McKinley said. "At this point, we'd be fools not to start him."