A budding Cape Fear Christian Academy softball program held its second college signing of 2022 during a ceremony at the school.
ERWIN — A budding Cape Fear Christian Academy softball program held its second college signing of 2022 during a ceremony at the school Tuesday.
With mostly everyone decked out in The University of Mount Olive colors, Mariah Bell celebrated a decision to continue her student-athlete career at UMO.
“It means a lot to me, considering I just came here last year and I already have a bunch of support from my teammates,” Bell said, as she was surrounded by dozens of her CFCA peers, coaches and teachers.
A converted dancer who competed at events since age 3, Bell turned in her flats for cleats in eighth grade.
It was a future-oriented decision that made Tuesday’s memorable moment a possibility after watching countless college games on TV.
“I just kind of fell in love with it throughout the years,” she said. “Since I started playing softball, I just continued to work every day because I wanted to get on that level ... and even now I still keep working hard because I want to be the best that I can.”
Whether it was training five days a week during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, or reshaping her hitting form this past offseason, the 2021 All-Record Softball Team selection enjoys little downtime.
Last year, Bell imposed her will from the top of the lineup to help CFCA capture runner-up honors at the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association 1A state tournament.
“She brought us speed, agility– the ability to get out in centerfield and run all these balls down,” said Lady Eagles coach Sterling Holmes.
“It’s just been phenomenal to be a part of and watch.”
Holmes also hosts Bell at his training center in Benson and says they perfected her slapping and drag bunting from the left side ahead of this season.
Currently, the senior outfielder is leading the NCISAA Sandhills Conference with a .610 batting average, .662 on-base percentage and 33 stolen bases.
Bell’s two hits and two runs helped CFCA (14-4, 5-1 NCISAA SAC) take down Fayetteville Christian, 11-4, on Senior Night to set up a second straight conference championship appearance Friday.
With most of her younger teammates, and even middle school players in attendance for the signing, Bell is even more emboldened to keep pushing.
“I hope they can look at me and see me as a role model. ... I hope I motivate them,” she said.
A formidable UMO team will be awaiting the speedster later this year, following a 39-13 season in which the Lady Trojans tied for first atop the Carolinas Conference standings.
“This part of your journey is coming to a close, but now the real work starts,” Holmes told Bell.
“You’re going into college, you’re gonna be up there with players that have worked just as hard as you have. And now is where you really got to put forth the effort and just continue what you’ve been doing.”
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-230-2040.