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Exploding onto the scene

How sophomore Campbell Bagshaw has gone from bench warmer to big timer for the Jayhawks

5 min read
KU sophomore Campbell Bagshaw (6) catches a low five from KU coach Jennifer McFalls after her grand slam home run against Wichita State earlier this season. [Kansas Athletics photo]

A couple of weeks ago, I went up to Kansas softball practice to talk with sophomore first baseman Campbell Bagshaw about her first career home run, which also happened to be a grand slam.

A fun little story about a memorable milestone, I thought.

A little more than 24 hours, Bagshaw had made that first dinger nearly obsolete by blasting another one — this one a two-run shot to beat No. 13 Baylor in the opening game of KU’s series sweep of the Bears at Arrocha Ballpark.

Then, last weekend, in a rough outing against No. 1 Oklahoma, Bagshaw was responsible for one of the KU bright spots with her third home run of the season.

All of this from someone who insists that she’s not a power hitter.

“She may not be a power hitter, but she’s a damn good hitter is what she is,” KU pitcher Kasey Hamilton said of Bagshaw, her college and high school teammate. “She’s just killing it right now.”

That might be putting it mildly.

The former walk-on from Topeka who barely played at all last season as a freshman currently leads the KU starters in batting average (.315), RBIs (25) and sacrficies and is second in slugging percentage at .517.

She also might lead the team in pure bliss. And that, too, is saying something because the 24th-ranked Jayhawks are off to a hot start and letting fun fuel their fire up and down the lineup and from the mound to the dugout.

“It’s all surreal,” Bagshaw told R1S1 Sports. “I love softball and that’s why I chose to play it and I take every day like it’s living out my dream.”

“It’s so rewarding when a kid like that gets something back from the game because she puts in so much work.” — KU coach Jennifer McFalls
KU's Campbell Bagshaw hollers toward her teammates who are gathered at home plate after her second home run of the season that helped beat Baylor. [Kansas Athletics photo]

For the longest time, that dream was on the soccer pitch. Bagshaw didn’t begin playing competitive softball until just before her junior year at Washburn Rural High School.

It’s been all up from there.

She chose KU because it was nearby and always felt like her dream school. She’s playing with high school teammates Kasey Hamilton, the team’s ace pitcher, and Olivia Bruno, a fixture in the KU lineup for the past few seasons. And she has put in the kind of work that has both allowed her to crack the lineup and impressed her teammates and coaches beyond their wildest dreams.

“I think the difference maker for her was that she took care of business over the summer,” KU coach Jennifer McFalls said. “Her work ethic is off the charts. And when we started back up in the fall, I was like, ‘Wow. She looks totally different. She’s locked in.”

From there, it was a matter of two things for the player whose teammates call her “Candle” and, perhaps with a hint of foreshadowing, whose parents called her “Bams.”

The first thing was seeing if her progress and improvement continued to show. And, second, finding a place for her on defense.

That place was first base, where Bagshaw has impressed as much with her glove in the field as her swing at the plate.

Still, though, it’s always those home runs that ring loudest.

The grand slam against Wichita State was both unexpected and vintage Bagshaw.

“I was just thinking, bases loaded, no outs, trying to stay confident,” she recalled. “I was just trying to do it for Kasey because when you put up a couple runs against a good team like Wichita State, it helps. I’m more of a gap-to-gap hitter, but, every once in a while, you just connect and it takes off.”

Usually, that happens when she sees a pitch on the outside portion of the plate, which perfectly fits her comfort taking the ball to the opposite field. This one, however, was middle-in and she turned on it and rocked it.

“I think I kind of ran the bases pretty fast,” she said with a laugh. “In the moment, it kind of didn’t feel real.”

It was not until she rounded second base that she came back to reality and saw her teammates headed to home plate to line up for the celebration.

“It was just so exciting seeing them be there for me,” she said. “It just felt really good to be able to do that for my team.”

As rounded third base and saw her coach escorting her home, the look on her face said it all.

“Just pure joy,” McFalls said to describe Bagshaw’s face in that moment. “It’s so rewarding when a kid like that gets something back from the game because she puts in so much work.”

The fun didn’t stop when she touched home. The celebration spilled into the dugout, which kept a smile permanently fixed on her face for a while.

“It was just the hugs,” she said of her favorite part of the celebratory scrum. “You don’t get that a lot. You get high-fives and stuff, but them being there with their arms open was just really cool.”

While McFalls loved every bit of that grand slam and the happiness it brought to her team, the KU coach’s favorite part was the growth and maturity the big at-bat demonstrated.

“She’s just the kind of kid who comes in (after a bad at-bat) and goes, ‘Oh my God, that was terrible. What was I doing,’” McFalls said. “And then she has the ability to make adjustments. That’s what you’re constantly trying to get out of your hitters, from pitch to pitch or one at-bat to the next.”

“She’s just solid,” McFalls added. “I can’t think of a better term to describe her. She’s solid in everything she does, and that’s what it takes to play at this level. She understands the discipline it takes to be a great athlete and all those things are paying off for her.”

Bagshaw and the Jayhawks will head to Nebraska tonight for a mid-week game with the Cornhuskers and then travel to Iowa State this weekend for a three-game series with the Cyclones in Ames.

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