Back from two knee surgeries, softball pitcher Campbell Schaen has Mooresville on a roll

Mooresville High School’s Campbell Schaen knows that she hasn’t been able to play softball at her best the past three years.

However, now that she’s at 100%, Schaen is playing like a winner — and pushing her Blue Devils teammates to make a run at a state championship. Led by a now-healthy Schaen, Mooresville is undefeated (18-0 overall, 10-0 Greater Metro 4A) entering Tuesday’s conference game at South Iredell.

The College of Charleston signee has been on the mound for the Blue Devils in all of those wins. In her first 17 games, Schaen had an 1.15 earned run average, 117 strikeouts and four shutouts.

Among Mooresville’s (and Schaen’s) wins were three against past state champions — 4-1 against eight-time NCHSAA Class 4A champ Alexander Central in the Blue Devils’ season opener Feb. 26; a 2-0 victory March 20 against West Stanly, which has won the last four Class 2A titles and five overall; and a 2-1 victory three days later against two-time Class 3A champion West Rowan.

“I really thought that we were going to be better than we were last year,” when the Blue Devils went 21-7 (10-2 Greater Metro 4A) after losing in the second round of the playoffs, Schaen said, “but I did not think we were going to be 17-0, or beating West Stanly, beating Alexander Central or beating West Rowan. I definitely wouldn’t have thought about that.

“I knew we were going to be better than we were, but I wasn’t expecting us to be this good.”

Part of that was the return of Schaen to full strength after having two operations on her right knee — the plant leg for the left-handed pitcher.

That has her again playing at a level she last showed as a freshman, when she finished 9-2 with a 1.33 ERA and 74 strikeouts, and hit .364 with eight RBIs.

Not only is Schaen — even playing injured, she was a three-time all-state pick by the N.C. Softball Coaches Association — delivering with her arm, she’s also producing runs for the Blue Devils: she’s one of the team’s top three hitters, with a .420 batting average, 18 hits and 16 RBIs.

“This is her first year where she’s fully healthy — that’s made a big difference,” said Paul Kikta, Mooresville High’s coach for seven seasons. “But I also think mentally, she knows that she can trust herself and trust her knees.”

However, according to Schaen, a bigger factor might be the makeup of the Blue Devils’ roster this season — and how the players interact with each other.

“It’s junior and senior heavy, but we also have a lot of girls from our (junior varsity team) who also play varsity too,” Schaen said. “We’re really young, but we all mesh really well together — that’s why I think we’re so good. One of the biggest things with our team is that we hold each other accountable. I expect them to hold me accountable when I’m not performing, and you best believe that I’m going to be holding them accountable when they’re not performing as they should be.”

That’s made Kikta’s job, as well as that of his assistant coaches — one of whom is Josh Schaen, Campbell’s father and her pitching coach — a little bit easier.

“She’s one of our team captains this year — she’s shown the leadership on and off the field, and leading by example, not just saying things,” Kikta said. “I trust her with doing a lot of things that some coaches might not trust their players with.”

PHOTOS: Mooresville High pitcher Campbell Schaen