BUIES CREEK, N.C. – Heading into the 2013 season, people around Campbell University knew something special could happen with its surging baseball program.
The team was coming off arguably the best season in program history, reaching the benchmark 40-win plateau for the first time, beating nationally ranked opponents, players moving on to play professionally and numerous records falling.
While certainly proud of what they had achieved, the Camels wanted more than what 2012 had to offer.
The acronym "TNDO", standing for their mantra "take no days off", could be heard around the team, and seen on their wrists on bracelets almost every player wore each day.
Part of the excitement included a new home, Jim Perry Stadium, for Campbell's baseball program. The stadium was named for 1970 CY Young Award winner and Campbell alum Jim Perry. Taylor Field, the Camels' longtime home park, took on a major renovation, getting a major renovation that included a new grandstand and press box.
With its new digs and a roster filled with returners, the Camels opened the 2013 on Friday, Feb. 15 with an 8-2 win over Eastern Michigan.
The Camels went on to take down perennial in-state power East Carolina twice during the year, accomplishing that feat for the first time since 1985. CU also swept ACC foe Duke, winning both games against the Blue Devils. Other in-state nonconference wins included Appalachian State and UNC Greensboro.
Those wins made up just a few of the Camels' total against North Carolina based competition, going 16-4 against Tar Heel State foes in 2013.
Some of those wins proved to be Campbell's most thrilling, with Elijah Trail's three-run double in the eighth to sink ECU 8-6 in Buies Creek, Blake Boyce's eighth inning go-ahead grand slam to defeat UNCG 10-7 and Michael DeLucia's two-home run, six-RBI game in a win over App. State in Thomasville, N.C.
The team wouldn't lack thrilling wins in Big South play either, with three last at-bat victories and four wins where the go-ahead run was scored in the eighth or later.
Of Campbell's three final at-bat wins, two came in the first two games of the VMI series, with ninth inning winners from Boyce and Michael Felton. The final came in the Liberty series opener, with the Camels trying to clinch the Big South regular season title no less, when Nick Ray singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 13th.
Perhaps the most memorable comeback win of the year came in rubber match of the Camels' first Big South series. Trailing 9-0 after three innings at Gardner-Webb. Campbell then rallied to defeat the Bulldogs 11-10 and clinch the Big South weekend series at JH Moss Stadium. The Camels picked up three runs in the fourth and six in the fifth before taking the lead in the top of the eighth inning on Felton's second infield hit of the game.
Campbell head coach Greg Goff also picked up his 300th career win on March 13 against ECU at Jim Perry Stadium, providing another great moment of the 2013 season in a year filled with memories.
After all, the team only lost one series all season, and lost back to back games just twice.
Campbell won the Big South's regular season championship with a sweep of preseason North Division favorite Liberty to close the Camels' conference play, clinching the program's first divisional championship since 1987, and first overall regular season crown since 1986.
With the top seed in the Big South Tournament for the first time since 1986, the Camels won their first three games in Lynchburg, Va., 4-0 over Charleston Southern, 4-3 over Radford and 8-6 over Longwood to clinch a spot in the conference championship game against Liberty, where CU fell 2-1 in the winner take all title tilt and was left on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the dream season effectively ending that May 25 evening in Lynchburg, the Camels continued to rack up accolades for their season's success.
Prior to the Big South Tournament, a record nine Camels earned all-conference honors, with righthander Ryan Thompson being named the league's Pitcher of the Year, and head coach Greg Goff earning the unanimous Coach of the Year nod.
Thompson, also First Team All-Big South as a relief pitcher, was joined by Ben McQuown (outfield), Michael Felton (second base) Elijah Trail (third base) and Ryan Mattes (starting pitcher) on the conference's First Team.
Olson was also named to the Big South's All-Academic team.
Campbell's nine first and second team honorees by far surpassed a season high for the program. Four Camels have been all-league selections three times, including 2012, 2006 and 1988.
Thompson was the first Campbell pitcher to be named his conference's pitcher of the year, while Goff became the third Campbell head coach to earn coach of the year accolades after Chip Smith in 2000 (Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year) and Cal Koonce in 1986 (Big South).
After the All-Big South selections, honors from the national level began to pour in.
Four Camels racked up All-America accolades, led by McQuown (Baseball America, NCBWA) and Thompson (Louisville Slugger, ABCA), with two each. Graham (College Sports Madness) and Olson (CoSIDA Academic All-America) also earned national honors.
A record three Camels were named to the ABCA's Atlantic All-Region team, including Thompson and Felton, who was named All-American as a junior in 2012, earning First Team accolades. Bowers also picked up a Second Team nod.
Nine members of Campbell's record setting 2013 squad were then named to North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association's University Division All-State baseball teams. Seven Camels earned NCCSIA First Team All-State honors, while two made the Second Team list.
Bowers and Mattes accounted for the first team's starting pitchers, while Thompson was named first team as a reliever. Michael DeLucia and Felton also made NC All-State at catcher and infield, while McQuown and Olson made the first team at the outfield and designated hitter positions. Graham was named a second team infielder, while Brown was named a second team outfielder.
In the final day of the 2013 MLB Draft on June 8, more Campbell history was made when two Camels, left-handed pitcher Matt Marksberry and outfielder Ben McQuown were selected. Marksberry was taken by the Atlanta Braves in the 15th round, while the Oakland Athletics picked McQuown in the 30th round.
A week later, teammate Ryan Mattes joined the pair in the pro ranks, signing a free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals, marking the first time since 2001 that three Camels signed a professional contract in the same season.
Campbell again ranked among the nation's leaders in several statistical categories, with McQuown and Thompson becoming NCAA national statistic champions. McQuown led the nation with a school record 54 stolen bases, while Thompson topped Division I with a stingy 0.88 ERA.
McQuown also ranked 12th nationally in runs (65), while Felton and Trail tied for fourth in sacrifice flies (10), Olson ranked fifth in hit by pitch (24), Bowers 21st in ERA (1.69) and Graham 28th in on-base percentage (.472).
As a team, Campbell also finished eighth in batting (.314), 15th in scoring (7.1 runs per game), sixth in stolen bases (130), third in times hit by pitch (124), 11th in on-base percentage (.404), seventh in ERA (2.63), 22nd in hits allowed per nine (7.95) and an outstanding fourth in win-loss percentage (.831).
Individually, Camels led the Big South in on-base percentage, runs scored, RBI, hit by pitch, sacrifice flies, stolen bases, ERA, opposing batting average, innings pitched, wins, games started and runners picked off.
The team, meanwhile, led the league in batting, slugging, on-base percentage, runs, hits, RBI, triples, total bases, hit by pitch, sacrifice flies and stolen bases.
Many of these marks topped school records as well, including the team's 49 wins and McQuown's 54 steals.
Thompson's 0.88 ERA reset Campbell and Big South standards, while Felton and Trail set a CU mark and tied the Big South record for sacrifice flies (10). Bowers and Thompson tied the CU record for most wins by a righthander (9), while Bowers' 1.00 winning percentage also tied a school record (9-0, most wins in school history without a loss).
Mattes posted a 1.94 ERA, the lowest ERA in Campbell history while pitching 100 or more innings, also allowing the fewest walks per nine in school history with 1.5 (18 in 106.2 IP). Thompson also tied the single season saves record with 10.
The team also tied or set records in games played (59), stolen bases (130), sacrifice flies (43), shutouts (6), innings pitched (531.0), fewest walks per nine (3.23). Campbell's pitching staff set both a school and a Big South record with a 2.63 team ERA.
All of this amounted to an incredible 49-10 overall record, finishing seventh in the country in wins behind the likes of LSU, North Carolina, Cal. State Fullerton, Oregon State, Vanderbilt, Louisville and Virginia.
The Camels ranked as high as No. 23 (NCBWA, May 28) in the national polls, and finished the season at No. 28 (NCBWA).
2013 was a season of great wins, moments and memories, undoubtedly setting a new standard for success for baseball in "The Creek."