Bell repeats as Class AAAAAA’s top player
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
January 09, 2014 12:48 AM | 2621 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Capping a standout career at Kennesaw Mountain, Malea Bell, right, was named the Class AAAAAA Player of the Year for a second straight season.
<BR>Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
Capping a standout career at Kennesaw Mountain, Malea Bell, right, was named the Class AAAAAA Player of the Year for a second straight season.
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
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Kennesaw Mountain’s Malea Bell and Pope’s Kelly Barnhill highlighted a list of 11 Cobb County players named to their respective all-state softball teams by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association.

Bell, a senior, was named the state Class AAAAAA Player of the Year for the second straight season, while Barnhill, a junior, was Class AAAAA Pitcher of the Year despite playing only half the season.

Bell received all-state honors in each of her four seasons with the Lady Mustangs. She earned second-team accolades as a freshman and was first-team her final three years.

A two-time Region 4AAAAAA and Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Player of the Year, Bell also garnered four first-team all-region and all-county honors.

“I was very surprised when I found out,” Bell said of her most recent player of the year honor. “It’s such a great honor and I’m thankful I was selected. There are so many great players in the state and I know that there was a lot of competition for the award. It had to be a tough decision to make.”

Bell led Kennesaw Mountain in batting, hits, doubles and home runs for the second straight season. She also helped the Lady Mustangs to back-to-back region titles and a fifth-place showing at the Class AAAAA state tournament.

Bell’s numbers for the 2013 season included a .455 average, along with 36 RBIs, three triples, 10 home runs, 17 doubles and 47 runs scored.

Bell is the fourth county player to earn a state player of the year award in as many seasons, joining Kell’s Kelsey Mericka (Class AAAA) in 2010 and Hillgrove’s Maisie Steed (AAAAA) in 2011.

Barnhill recorded her second first-team all-state nod in picking up her first award. The two-time Region 7AAAAA and Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Pitcher of the Year, went 16-3 with a 0.52 ERA in 19 starts, with 257 strikeouts to just 24 walks in 122 innings pitched.

A tear to the lateral meniscus in Barnhill’s left knee during the offseason sidelined her for the early part of the fall. The Lady Greyhounds went 8-7 during her absence, but in Barnhill’s return, she led Pope back to the Class AAAAA state finals and a fourth-place finish.

“To get the kind of stats Kelly had in just half a season was amazing,” Pope coach Chris Turco said. “It was one of her goals to be the state pitcher of the year, so I’m excited for her.”

Barnhill threw five no-hitters, including one in the state finals, and had a perfect game against Cambridge. She also gave up only one hit in a 2-0 loss to eventual state champion Ola in Columbus.

“We were all bummed by her early-season injury, because we thought it would keep her from accomplishing the goals she set,” Turco said, “but she came back just as strong as before, and she was a big reason in getting us back to Columbus.”

Joining Bell on the Class AAAAAA all-state first-team was Kennesaw Mountain teammate Kathryn Woody, Lassiter’s Kelly Sinclair and Carli Kayler and Harrison’s Sierra Maddox.

Second-team honors went to Harrison’s Bridgette Rainey and Lassiter’s Elise Sandberg.

Joining Barnhill on the Class AAAAA first team was Allatoona’s Elisabeth Federici, while second-teamers included Allatoona’s Makenzie Colwart and Kell’s Taylor Colclasure.
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