Former Centreville star comes up big in postseason play

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 12, 2016

Randy Bell entered the matchup June 4 against Alabama State fully aware of what was at stake for him and his University South Alabama teammates.

A loss would send his squad home, while a win would keep the Jaguars hopes alive in NCAA postseason play.

As it turned out, the former Centerville Academy star wasn’t quite ready to call it a season.

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Bell tossed a complete game in helping lift USA to a 6-3 win over Alabama State University to stave off elimination in the Tallahassee Regional.

“We had our backs in a corner,” Bell said. “We came out and swung the bats well and hit the ball and scored a few runs for me. I was able to go the distance. I got hit a little bit — they hit two home runs off me — but I was able to settle in after the first few innings.”

South Alabama dropped its postseason opener to the University of Southern Mississippi the day prior 14-2, and the Jaguars were attempting to claw their way out of the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament. After using five pitchers in their opening-round loss, it was pivotal for Bell to not only provide a strong outing in hopes of a win, but also to go deep in the game to give his team any chance of coming back to win the tournament.

“I was focusing on staying calm and doing what I’ve been doing all year,” Bell said. “I wanted to give my team a chance to win and try to put them in the best position as possible, as well as for the rest of the tournament in saving the bullpen. We were in the loser’s bracket, and we needed to save pitching.”

Bell allowed just seven hits while striking out eight batters and held ASU scoreless the final five innings.

“I had good fastball command and kept them off balance with the curveball,” Bell said. “I was able to put the fastball where I wanted to — run it in on their hands when I needed to and go away when I needed to as well.”

South Alabama then went on to beat USM 7-5 to advance to the tournament finals but eventually fell to tournament host Florida State 18-6, ending the Jaguars’ postseason run.

Although the game didn’t go quite as planned, the junior right hander said he will have lasting memories of his squad’s final 2016 game.

“It was awesome,” Bell said. “The crowd was awesome. We played Florida State (June 5), and it was packed crowd — it was a good environment. They were on us during the game, but once it was over, they started chanting ‘USA! USA!’ and that kind of gave everybody chills.”

The June 4 outing capped off what proved to be strong showing for the former Tiger. Bell finished the season with a 7-1 record to go along with 2.45 ERA in 88.1 innings pitched in helping spring USA to its first tournament appearance since the 2013 season.

“It was definitely big for the program,” Bell said of reaching the postseason. “We were able to put our name out there a little bit. We were ranked 26th in the latest polls, and that’s good for the program for us to finish that high.”

Bell said a heavy emphasis has already been placed on next season.

“We set the bar again high for next year,” Bell said. “We’re losing a bunch of seniors, but we have a bunch of key players returning for next year — guys that have started a lot of games. To get that experience this year, we’ve set the bar high again. We want to take it one step farther and win the regional next year.”