Amaya Bell couldn’t have picked a better time.
Harnett Central led throughout the game in their first round NCHSAA 3A softball playoff matchup with Franklinton on Tuesday. But then Franklinton rallied for three runs to tie the game up at 5-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
“I remember thinking, ‘We have to hit here,’” Bell said. “I didn’t want to go home after just one round, especially not on our home field.”
Lyndsey Brewer and Mikeala Gross both singled to bring up Bell with the winning run in scoring position.
“I was honestly just thinking, ‘Lord, let me get a base hit,’” Bell said.
Well, she definitely got that, and a little more, getting all of the ball for a three-run walkoff dinger. It was her first home run of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a much better time. As she touched home plate she was met with a barrage of congratulatory pats on the helmet.
“It felt amazing,” Bell said. “I’ve been waiting for this all season. And I’m glad it came at this moment, when we needed it. I’ve never had a walkoff hit or anything like that before, so this is my first. I couldn’t really ask for it to be any better.”
Bell has been a solid player for Central this season. Playing out in right field and batting in the bottom half of the lineup, she doesn’t lead the Trojans in any one particular area. But that’s what’s made Central such a special team this year: all of the different parts contribute to one big Red and Gold machine. A different player can come up on any given night and make the difference. That group mentality comes all the way from the top, where even the coaching staff conducts its post-game interviews as a group, rather than just head coach Chelsey Cabe. And it’s something that has stuck with all of the girls, including Bell.
“That’s something we’ve talked a lot about this year: knowing your role and doing it the best you can,” Bell said. “That can mean lots of different things, whether it’s cheering on your teammates, getting a big hit or laying down a bunt for someone else, or just hustling all the time.”
And that’s something Bell has always done. Prior to joining the varsity team, she used to play third base. But when she was asked to make the switch to the outfield, she never questioned it. She’s turned into a terrific defensive player in right field, and she’s turned it on offensively this season. She finished the regular season hitting .333 with eight RBIs and six runs scored, and legged out a pair of triples and a double.
That kind of production at the back end of the lineup is part of what’s helped Central win 10 straight games and 13 of their last 14 on their way to back-to-back Tri-County Conference championships. And Bell hopes that she can continue to contribute to Central for a couple more games in the playoffs.
The No. 9 seed Trojans (13-5) will travel Friday to face No. 8 seed Southern Nash (17-4). Southern Nash went undefeated in the Big East Conference, sweeping third-place Franklinton, though both were one-run games. The Firebirds narrowly edged out Union Pines 5-4 in their first round matchup. Central beat Union Pines three times, though they had to rally late to beat them in the conference tournament.
Both teams look evenly matched, which means it could likely come down to one or two plays. Whatever happens, Bell is proud of what she and her teammates have accomplished this season.
“We won a conference championship, and we beat Triton three times to do it,” Bell said. “It’s been a really great year. I just want to keep playing as long as we can.”
Below is a list of some of Amaya’s favorite things, as well as her ideal dinner guest list and whom she’d want with her to survive a zombie apocalypse.
Favorite Color: Turquoise
Favorite Food: Rice
Favorite Restaurant: Miyabi in Fayetteville
Favorite Subject: Science
Favorite Teacher: Ms. Angela Buie
Favorite Sport: Softball
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Beyonce, Jay Z and Kanye West
Ideal Group to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: Fallon Wimberly, Ella Prince, Lyndsey Brewer, Mikeala Goss and Kolby Medlin