Wednesday Apr 18 2012
Sierra College’s Katie Bell signs with Simpson University
By: Matt Folsom Placer Herald Correspondent
Wolverine top softball hurler
A recurring comment heard around the Sierra College softball coach’s office this season has referred to pitcher Katie Bell as ”half the player she was last year.” They’re not describing the talent or productivity of the sophomore from Rio Linda High School, not in the least. Head coach Darci Brownell would be the first to say the Wolverines would not be in first place in the Big 8 conference or ranked second in the state without Katie Bell. Bell lost an inspiring 65 pounds over the summer and looks, quite literally, to be about half the person she was a year ago. Her dramatic weight loss is just one example of the grit and determination that earned her an athletic scholarship to Simpson University. Bell signed her letter of intent with Simpson coach Wayne Stower in a small ceremony in Rocklin last Thursday surrounded by Brownell, her family and friends. Simpson, a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), is a small, Christian college located in Redding. Its size, academic focus, and proximity to Bell’s robust support network seem a good fit. “It’s so close to home, which is exciting for me,” Bell said. “The girls on the team when I visited really made me feel at home.” Dyan Bell, Katie’s mother, welcomes what Simpson can offer her daughter. “It’s going to be good to have God take a stronger presence in her life,” she said. “The fact it’s a small school with solid academics makes it perfect for her.” Bells’ weight loss has been directly opposed to her growth in other areas during her two years at Sierra. “I have mentally and physically grown so much here,” she said with tears glistening in her eyes. “I wouldn’t be in the same state of mind if I hadn’t come to Sierra. The coaches and my teammates have made this a home away from home for me.” “Sierra has been amazing for Katie,” Dyan Bell said concurring with her daughter. “The coaches have given her so much confidence. Props to Darci, (pitching coach) Michele Granger and (assistant coach) Cortney Jones. They helped her to bloom on and off the field and become a beautiful young woman.” A member of a three-player Sierra pitching staff, Bell recently had two strong outings in a row in crucial league games to move to 9-2 on the year. Against second place San Joaquin Delta College two weeks ago, Bell pitched a 5-0 complete game shutout. She followed that up a week later by holding arch-rival Sacramento City to no runs on two hits and no walks in six innings as a reliever in Sierra’s 5-2 win over the Panthers. Bell’s value to an elite Sierra team extends far beyond wins and statistics. “She’s our sparkplug,” Brownell said. “She motivates and fires us up just by being around. Even in a home run derby in practice, for example, she’s so fiery and competitive.” While Bell has been counted on for her arm more than her bat this season, she is perfect at the plate with a pair of singles and an RBI double in her three at-bats for the Wolverines. Stower looks forward to what Bell can bring to his roster. “We were looking at three pages of junior college pitchers and her innings to walks and strikeouts ratio really stood out,” he said. “Our focus is on defense and pitching and she will fit in very well. JC players are generally more mature and more experienced and better-prepared academically and with their time management so we’re excited to add her to our program.” The fact Bell has played at Sierra hasn’t hurt either. “They play at such a high level,” Stower said of the Wolverines. “Their conference, and the type of teams they play against, make their girls tested and ready to play when they get to the next level. Darci makes sure they’re prepared academically and on the field. Her kids are always mentally ready to go.” Bell appears to be heading from one successful program to another. While Sierra competes for a state championship, Simpson’s Red Hawks are looking for their third California Pacific conference title in Stower’s four years at the helm. Simpson went 34-17 last year, good enough to end up ranked seventh in the final NCCAA poll and 10th nationally in the highly competitive NAIA division one playoffs. Stower believes Simpson has a lot to offer. “The area’s great,” he beamed. “Students get a great education and our players get an opportunity to compete for a national title.” If Bell continues to grow when she exchanges Sierra’s cardinal and white for Simpson’s red, white and black, look for her to shed batters in much the same way she shed all those pounds and that national championship may become a reality.