Former Centreville pitcher guides South Alabama to postseason

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 1, 2017

Randy Bell grew up a fan of Mississippi State University, but must now push his childhood memories to the back of his mind.

The former Centreville Academy star and current senior for the University of South Alabama is set for a matchup with the Bulldogs in their first game of the Hattiesburg Regional in  the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship.

Bell is likely to start the game on the mound for the third-seeded Jaguars Friday. MSU enters as the No. 2 seed, with Southern Miss No. 1 and Illinois-Chicago as the No. 4 seed.

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“My grandpa is from Starkville,” Bell said. “It will definitely be special.”

Bell leads the USA pitchers in games started this season with 15 and also innings pitched, tossing 98.1 going into the regional tournament. His earned run average currently sits at 3.75.

“There is a lot of high energy within the team,” he said. “We are excited for the chance to play postseason baseball. I feel like I can be a leader to the guys who didn’t experience it last year.”

South Alabama (39-19) received its draw in the national tournament riding a five-game winning streak and a walk-off victory to claim the Sun Belt Conference Championship, 7-6, this past Sunday.

Bell said, however, after USA started the season 9-9, the team needed a shift in attitude.

“I think for teams to be successful, everybody has to chip in,” he said. “We made some adjustments, and I think the best thing was that guys realized they had to contribute and do their part. To lose just 10 games after that for the rest of the season, that was a big accomplishment for us.”

The Jaguars claimed the conference title after tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with a pair of back-to-back solo home runs. USA is ranked no. 19 in the latest Collegiate Baseball Poll.

South Alabama has three players with double-digit home runs on the year.

“It was a great feeling with all the work we put in through the year,” Bell said. “Our high-powered offense helped us to not panic.”

Keeping up the energy, Bell said, is something his team plans to lean on greatly.

“The momentum is big,” he said. “It’s about staying hot at the right time. That gives the pitchers a bit more confidence. It makes it easier because you don’t have to hold a team to no runs. It allows us room to just pitch our game.”

Bell said for his style, he likes to use mostly fastballs and curve balls, utilizing a change up when needed. He has racked up 93 strikeouts this year.

“I usually rely on hitters to beat themselves and let my defense make plays behind me,” he said.

Bell also said he knows he can count on USA’s combination of arms Beside him.

“I just want put my team in best position to win,” he said. “Whether that means going five innings or seven. I want to go as long as I can, but we have to stay healthy throughout the weekend. You don’t want to use your whole bullpen in the first game.”

While the ending to his college baseball career is currently unwritten, Bell said he is thankful to being suiting up Friday, with game is set to begin at 6 p.m.

“It’s awesome to go back to my home state and get the chance to play just a couple hours from home,” he said.