Chances are you won’t catch Campbell County Coach Scott Schweitzer smiling on Friday. There’s still business to take care of.
“Right now they’re still not satisfied,” Schweitzer said of his Camels, in the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament for just the third time in school history. “I’ve been preaching since we won the region that we’re gonna do things the same way we’ve done all year. We’re gonna prepare and do the same stuff. It’s not time to celebrate after any win until it’s the big one.”
After waiting 45 years, the Camels are making their second appearance in the semifinals. The 10th Region champions meet 6th Region champ Bullitt East on Friday. As with Campbell’s previous two games, the first pitch is slated for 8:30 p.m. at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Last week, Schweitzer elected to have his team bused to and from Lexington rather than staying in town. Campbell County got used to long waits and traveling during its regional, during which weather and graduation conspired to extend the tournament by three days and change the site from Harrison County to Simon Kenton by the time the finals finally occurred on June 4.
Since the Camels defeated Scott 10-0 that Saturday, Schweitzer has posed one question to his team.
“‘Which team are we? Are we the team that’s happy to go there and play or are we the team that’s there to win?’” Schweitzer said. “And so far they’ve been the team that’s there to win each time out.”
Campbell County, a Class 6A school in football, has the second-smallest enrollment of a final four that gives advocates for a class system in baseball more ammunition. The semifinalists on the opposite side of the bracket — McCracken County and St. Xavier — are Class 6A juggernauts ranked in the top 10 while Bullitt East is a Class 5A school whose enrollment of boys was a scant smaller than Campbell’s (750 to 781) this season.
The Camels and Chargers both carry 28-10 records into Friday. But, Bullitt East survived one of the Louisville regionals and defeated two tournament contenders in Oldham County and Scott County last weekend. Campbell County’s wins came against Ohio County, making its first tournament appearance, and Hazard, a Class A school.
Is an “underdog” label appropriate for Campbell County at this point?
“You can look at it and call us the underdogs, but at the same time once you get to the state tournament ... there’s always gonna be some people that are underdogs,” Schweitzer said. “But the bottom line is that (the winner) is the team that gets hot.”
People approached Schweitzer prior to the tournament and suggested that their draw was favorable since many of the top-ranked teams were on the top side of the bracket. In previous seasons that may have been the case, he said, but this year any advantage is negligible since pitching is at less of a premium under the new two-week format.
“You’re facing everybody’s No. 1 and No. 2 and if they’re in the state tournament, they’ve got a pretty darn good pitcher,” Schweitzer said.
Campbell’s ace is Alex Franzen, who has started about 15 times this season and given up more than three runs only twice. Franzen’s dad, Greg, was on Campbell County’s last regional championship team in 1989 when the Camels were still a member of the 9th Region.
Franzen, one of seven Campbell seniors, brings a healthy dose of confidence to the ballpark. Schweitzer’s “as confident as anybody in the state” with him on the mound.
“He’s got a serious competitive moxie to him,” Schweitzer said. “He really, really believes that he’s better than anybody else on that field and that there’s nobody that can beat him around the yard. That’s tough to instill in kids and he’s had that from the word ‘Go.’”
Not ready to smile
The community has rallied around Campbell County. The school district has offered to buy tickets for students and employees at the high school and bus them to Lexington. That kind of support resonates when you’re still practicing every night while your peers are swimming and planning vacations.
“When you’re offering to buy $10 for quite a few people to get ’em in the stands, that’s all greatly appreciated,” Schweitzer said. “Our kids, they definitely notice when you’ve got a sea of purple standing behind ya.”
Schweitzer is concerned about the cool-down after how well his team was hitting the ball last weekend, but recognized that it’s something every team has to deal with. If the Camels can overcome the lull, they’ll become the first team in program history to reach the state finals and the first school other than Harrison County to ever reach the finals among teams currently in the 10th Region.
But why not make as much history as possible?
“We won our first game against Ohio County and one of my players said to me, ‘C’mon coach, smile, we just won a game at state,’” Schweitzer said. “I keep reiterating that I’m not ready to smile yet. I’m not satisfied. It’s been a great year and I’m super happy and super proud of where the program is and where the boys have gone, but I really want to get two more wins.
“You’ll see me grinning ear-to-ear if I’m able to hoist that trophy.”
State tournament semifinals
Friday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark
6 p.m.: St. Xavier vs. McCracken County
8:30 p.m.: Bullitt East vs. Campbell County
Tickets: $10 general admission, $14 behind home plate