Highlands product Campbell having career year for UPJ baseball team

| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 12:46 a.m.

Clean-shaven now that his spring-training moustache is gone, Jeff Campbell is making clean contact at the plate.

“The moustache was for Florida; 10 of us had them,” said Campbell, a senior third baseman at Pitt-Johnstown. “I let it grow for a while, but I shaved it. I didn't want a moustache tan line.”

Campbell, a Highlands graduate, is putting together a career season and he credits a new approach at the plate for the influx of impressive stats.

“I am trying to keep the ball to the right side of the field,” said Campbell, a fourth-year starter. “I try to get my foot down earlier and it's paying off right now. I am hitting the ball harder and with more pop.”

Heading into the weekend, Campbell had a team-leading four home runs and four triples.

He was hitting .372 in a potent lineup that also has three .400-or-better hitters — Zach Vignero (.460), Jake Warner (.439) and Mike Palkovitz (.413).

The Mountain Cats had a 16-11 record (8-9 WVIAC) through Friday.

“Jeff has been a defensive stud for us and now his bat is clicking too,” UPJ coach Todd Williams said. “It has come about through his hard work and determination to bring that end of his game up along with his defense.”

A pull-hitter throughout high school and during his first two seasons at UPJ, Campbell is more than happy to go to the opposite field.

“I mean, wherever it goes, it goes,” said Campbell, who hits sixth or seventh in the order. “But I am doing more with the right-center and center part of the field. My coaches helped with that approach and I really worked on it in the fall.”

Patience also has become a part of each plate appearance for Campbell.

“I led the team in strikeouts last year and I had 60 less (at-bats) than the kid with the most at-bats,” he said. “That was my big key — get the Ks down and hit over .300.”

Campbell missed 25 games of his sophomore season with a broken hand he suffered while sliding into first.

He is more careful now on the base paths, even on steal attempts.

And speaking of stealing, Campbell could be someone who prevents theft in the future. He is considering becoming a state police officer.

“I have wanted to be a cop since I was a junior in high school,” he said. “I want to help out and give back to the community. It's dangerous, but it also has its benefits.”

Just like shaving with a new blade.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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