One reason Cameron Barber decided to play softball at Ohio Dominican was that so much about the program and university as a whole reminded her of her high school experience at DeSales.
"The school, the experience, the work ethic in our program, it's all exactly what I was looking for," said Barber, a 2016 DeSales graduate who lives in Powell. "(Coach Marcella Vanlandingham) coaches the same as my mom (longtime Stallions coach Julie Barber), too. They're both structured and expect a lot from us."
On the field, Barber carried her strong play from high school into college, albeit with an injury providing a temporary speed bump.
After dislocating her left elbow early in her freshman season, Barber rebounded this year to become one of the Panthers' top two pitchers, going 15-7 with a 2.86 ERA, 29 walks and 104 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings. Twenty-four of her 26 appearances were starts, and she had 17 complete games.
At the plate, Barber had a .333 batting average with 48 hits and a team-high nine home runs, eight of which came in Great Midwest Athletic Conference play to help the Panthers go 35-21, losing to Kentucky Wesleyan 3-0 in the conference championship game. She also ranked third in the conference in slugging percentage (.648), fifth in walks (16), sixth in RBI (32) and seventh in doubles (10) and was named second-team all-conference as a designated player.
Ohio Dominican won 19 consecutive games between March 31 and April 25.
Barber earned Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week honors early in her freshman year before the injury. She was able to return late in the season, going 5-5 with seven starts, a 3.21 ERA, six walks and 25 strikeouts in 48 innings and hitting .308 with 12 hits, including two doubles.
"That injury was devastating. That was a huge mental challenge to get over," Vanlandingham said, noting that it happened to her non-throwing arm although Barber bats left-handed. "She's absolutely living up to our expectations. When you get a player from DeSales, you know what you're going to get -- someone who is hard-working and disciplined. We expected her to come in and lead us in the circle, and we knew she could hit at this level as well. Especially for what she has been through, she is doing a great job."
Barber credited at least part of her success to the differences between her and Ohio Dominican's other primary starter, Abby Lamping. Lamping, a rising senior from Cleves in southwest Ohio, went 16-8 this spring with a 2.05 ERA, 39 walks and 93 strikeouts in 160 2/3 innings.
"Abby is more of a low-ball pitcher with a great curve. I've always been a rise-ball pitcher," Barber said. "Hitters see her drop-ball and drop curve, then I can change planes on more of a vertical level. We think that's a good way of keeping teams off balance."
Given that Barber -- whose mother was a standout pitcher at Ohio University from 1989-92 -- long has prioritized her pitching, she considered her offensive achievements a bonus.
"I am probably as shocked as anybody," Barber said. "I always want to make good contact but that was a lot more than I expected. I know I had over 10 home runs in high school and most of those came my sophomore year, but then I was working a lot more on my pitching than my hitting. Here, I was determined to be that pitcher who could also hit."
Vanlandingham had expected Barber to be more of a contact hitter.
"I didn't necessarily expect nine home runs, more extra-base hits she'd drive into the gap than anything else," Vanlandingham said. "She doesn't pull the ball as much as you might think. She'll hit a lot of balls up the middle."
Barber's major in nursing is keeping her busy this summer. She is working as a safety aid for OhioHealth, doing anything from sitting with patients to helping with transfers and providing whatever assistance nurses might need.
A health scare last year for her older brother, Andrew, reinforced Barber's career choice.
"He had a (benign) tumor in his chest and spending time with him while he recovered and watching how that went, that reassured me I am on the right path," she said. "I took an anatomy class my junior year (at DeSales) and loved it. I have a passion for biology. I think that's the best way I can help people."