BELLS — For the Lady Panthers, it feels like déjà vu all over again.
As the city of Bells gathered to celebrate another state softball championship on Tuesday night, it gave the team one more chance to reflect on what they’ve accomplished over the last two seasons.
“These girls were willing to sacrifice and put in the hard work to win and not only get back to the state championship but win again,” head coach Kristina Stephens said. “It means so much to have the support from everyone here.”
The Lady Panthers (28-8) won their second straight Class 2A state title after beating Normangee, 9-5, back on May 31 at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin. Just like last year, the Lady Panthers found themselves behind in the seventh inning.
And once again, Bells turned a 5-4 deficit into a lead that started with a two-run double from Bella Smith with the bases loaded. She would later score on a wild pitch in the inning.
Ashley Sloan and Hali Williams added RBI singles to push the Lady Panthers to the title.
After the players were greeted by a spirit line from the band, Bells principal Josh Weger commended the girls on another state championship season.
Following those opening remarks, girls athletic coordinator Chris Arledge spoke and commended the team on what they had accomplished.
“There’s hundreds of schools across the state of Texas but I don’t think we realize winning back-to-back state titles are,” Arledge said. “These young women are winners at everything that they do.”
After Arledge introduced Stephens, she took time to thanked the parents, fans, assistant coach Lisa Johnson, players and managers and everyone else who supported the team throughout the season.
Stephens also announced several awards from both the state and district and team awards.
Cheznie Blount was the Defensive Player of the Year and Bella Smith was the Offensive Player of the Year while seniors Ashley Sloan and Hali Williams earned the Leadership Award. Freshman shortstop Gabby Smith and sophomore pitcher Cheyenne Floyd both earned MVP honors.
The Lady Panthers move back to Class 3A starting next season and Stephens is confident that they can carry the good vibes into another run next year.
“These girls grew tremendously over the year and as we head into next season, it’ll be a challenge that these girls will be ready to accept and build on,” she said.
As Sloan and Williams both finish their high school careers, both reflected on how special it was to finish their high school careers on top.
“This team was definitely special,” Sloan said. “It means a lot to go out on top and our hard work is going to be remembered.”
“Going out on top as a senior is all I could ever ask for,” Williams said. “We had a lot of new faces on the team but plenty of new memories.”
Bells mayor Angela LeBlanc and the Bells athletic booster club also pledged donations for state championship rings for the team.
The ceremony closed with some words from Bells superintendent Joe Moore, who shared a story from an out-of-town school administrator about how the girls displayed their character off the field.
“They’re really good softball players but they’re also really good young ladies,” Moore said. “It makes me really proud to know that they’re from Bells.”