When Katie Bell watches video of her softball games from three years ago, she hardly recognizes herself.
She sees a skinny freshman pitcher who misses the plate more often than she throws strikes. She sees a hard-throwing lefthander whose father forced her to attend tryouts for the fledgling varsity team at Highland Park High School.
“Now I can’t imagine high school without it,” Bell said. “My biggest accomplishments have been in softball.”
Ditto for the Lady Scots as a whole, who this spring won their first district title in school history, and have qualified for the playoffs for the second straight year.
And they’re led by Bell, now a confident senior who has thrown almost every pitch in every game for HP during the past four seasons.
More of those pitches are going over the plate now, which is why Bell is among the strikeout leaders in the Dallas area, without all the walks and wild pitches that haunted her younger days.
“The presence she has in the circle now, compared to when she was a freshman – she’s very composed and she’s a much better leader now,” said HP head coach Meredith Townsend. “She’s always had some good speed. It’s just been a command of the strike zone. She’s a little more mature than she used to be.”
The same could be said of her senior teammates — such as Rennie Orr, Bell’s catcher and best friend — who have gradually rejuvenated a program from a perennial doormat into a budding power.
“It really motivated us,” said Bell, who also runs on the cross country team for HP. “We wanted to be competitive, too.”
During their sophomore year, the Lady Scots had their playoff hopes dashed with a loss in the final game of the regular season, when the last run scored on one of Bell’s wild pitches.
Last year, HP broke through with a postseason berth in its first year at the Class 6A level. The Lady Scots defeated Irving in the first round before falling to perennial power Rockwall.
This spring, Bell hopes the Lady Scots can advance even further. Earlier this year, Bell threw a no-hitter during a tournament game against Houston St. John’s, and posted 11 strikeouts in a dominating win over District 10-6A co-leader Richardson Berkner.
Bell called her first two seasons a “learning experience.” Like HP, she has come a long way from the timid freshman who wasn’t sure she wanted to play softball. These days, she never wants to be taken out.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else doing it because I want to be in control,” Bell said. “I like leading this team. It feels like where I should be.”