By Sonny Jones
The Fayetteville Observer
Called Third Strike Blog
BUIES CREEK – It's the top of the 9th inning, bases loaded, one out and your team clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Who you gonna call? It ain't ghostbusters.
The Campbell University baseball team calls on Ryan Mattes, and the 6-foot-7 junior right-hander from Virginia Beach, Va., gets the job done.
Mattes recorded saves in three games of a weekend series sweep of Radford to set the school season record for saves with 9. The previous record of 8 saves in a season was set in 1988 by Kenny Milton and tied by J.T. Thomas in 1996. Milton has the school's career saves record with 18 from 1986-89.
His record-breaker in Saturday's second game of a doubleheader had to have been his most dramatic of the season.
Hector Cedano had pitched near flawless baseball for 8 1/3 innings as Campbell clung to 1-0 lead against the Highlanders. However, Cedano walked the next three batters. That's when Campbell head coach Greg Goff called on his closer.
"I'm trying to get a ground ball," Mattes said after the game. "That's what we're told to do."
The ground ball he got off the bat of Patrick Marshall was a little dribbler about 15 to 20 feet in front of home plate. With the bases loaded, catcher Ben Fish wasn't able to leave home plate. That left it to Mattes to charge off the mound, grab the ball that had come to a stop and flip to Fish for the force out.
"I was confident once I got to the ball that I had time to get the out," Mattes said.
Mattes then struck out Westyn Baylor to seal the win, set the saves record and put Campbell in sole possession of second place in the Big South Conference standings with three games at home against Presbyterian remaining prior to the conference tournament. The Camels are 13-8 in Big South play and 38-15 overall.
"I can't describe the feeling of setting the record," Mattes said. "I've never set any records so it means a lot."
Mattes was rewarded for his weekend performance on Monday when he was selected as the Big South Conference Pitcher of the Week. Teammate Michael Felton was selected the league's Player of the Week after going 15-for-24 for a .625 batting average with 4 runs scored, 5 RBIs and 2 stolen bases as the Camels went 4-1.
"We're having a heck of a year. I can't set records without the team winning. All the credit goes to the team. Our starters are pitching great games. Our hitters are backing it up. The defense has been great."
It's a combination that has resulted in Campbell having its best baseball season in school history on the heels of last season's 17-37 debacle.
"It's been a complete turnaround," Mattes said. "Everyone was down in the dumps last season. Nobody predicted this type of season that we're having."
Could it end with a Big South Conference tournament championship?
"This team is very competitive," Mattes said. "We're looking forward to the tournament. We're in a good position to get the No. 2 seed behind Coastal Carolina. I think we have a great chance."
The tournament is scheduled May 22-26 in High Point.
If things fall into place, then Ryan Mattes could really save his best for the end.