In a year when 14 of the 16 first-team All-County selections batted above .500, Severna Park's Campbell Kline set herself apart — by a considerable margin.
The sophomore batted .611 with 20 runs scored, 44 hits, three doubles, six triples, three inside-the-park home runs, 23 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. Those offensive statistics, as well as going 4-1 with three saves in the circle with a 2.33 ERA, earned her the Capital Gazette Communications Softball Player of the Year.
"I am just really excited to get such great recognition for doing something that I just love to do," said Kline, who has already made a verbal commitment to continue her career at the University of Maryland. "This is such a super honor and right now I just feel really great to know that my hard work has paid off in the eyes of others."
Part of this season's success can be attributed to the work and commitment she made last offseason when she decided to stop being a switch-hitter and convert to hitting purely as a lefty. The right-handed thrower decided that hitting out of the left-handed batter's box allowed her to use her exceptional speed and bring her at least a step closer to first base so that she can leg out more infield hits.
"Some of the teams I played against didn't know I could hit lefty, so maybe I caught them playing me wrong or something this year," Kline said. "I think I have a lot more options hitting lefty. Not only can I soft-slap the ball, I can hard-slap, hit opposite field or just flat out drive the ball. Hitting from that side really allows me to help my team more and allows me to advance baserunners. I really worked hard in the batting cages last summer and will continue to going further."
Severna Park coach Meredith McAlister knew Kline was a special player when she came in as a freshman, but with the changes welcomed the converted Kline.
"After what I saw early in practice, it was no surprise that she hit in the .600s. Campbell wants to be the absolute best player she can be," McAlister said. "She can drag bunt, hard-slap, soft-slap and hit for power. Plus she has the speed to complement her hitting. She is just really so hard to defend at the plate."
Kline is quite skilled in the field as well from her shortstop position. Normally a center fielder, second baseman or pitcher for her travel team, she has been a mainstay at shortstop for the Falcons. In typical Kline fashion, she laid out for a ball in the preseason and broke a knuckle on her left (glove) hand. That did not stop Kline from starting the year in the hole at short.
However, it did affect her fielding. In her first 19 chances covering the first five games, Kline made four errors for an early-season fielding percentage of .790. She followed that with only one error in her next 47 attempts (.979 fielding percentage) for a season-ending fielding percentage of .924.
"The finger didn't stop me from playing. If I made an error, I had the seniors help pick me up and keep me in the game," Kline said. "From there on out, I just stayed as focused as possible. I stopped worrying about making errors because I just added pressure on myself. Once I stopped worrying about it, I just kept myself positive and the results showed."
In the circle, Kline won all three games she started while also earning three saves in relief of starter Marissa Heuer. She notched 28 strikeouts in 30 innings and a .924 fielding percentage in 66 total chances. She allowed more than two runs just twice in her 11 appearances and had a strike-to-ball ratio of .618. The 134 batters she faced batted .284 off her, with just 16 walks allowed.
"I know that no matter where I put her, I will get 150 percent from Campbell," McAlister said. "If I could have a player like her at every position, we'd be unbeatable. She is just now starting to realize she is as good as she is. She is that humble, and she has a terrific work ethic. I can't wait to see what she has to offer the next two years."
Despite the breakout season, Kline doesn't plan to rest on her laurels.
"I like to practice a lot, especially my hitting," Kline admitted. "But my power hitting needs to improve. I'm working on that now and will continue as long as needed until I am satisfied. I will play any position my teams need me to play as well. I like to get the feel of new positions."
And Kline knows that with two years left in her scholastic career, anything that she sets her mind to is achievable.
"After losing in the region to Arundel (3-2), it was certainly a letdown. Our team worked really well together all year," Kline said. "But we are looking really good for next year as well."