Bianka Bell is the most prolific hitter in the history of the LSU softball program.
She has hit more home runs, driven in more runs, accumulated more total bases, and slugged and reached base at a higher rate than any other Tiger, tying or breaking 13 school records.
Bell will continue to add to her historic statistics during the Baton Rouge regional of the NCAA tournament starting at 6 p.m. Friday against Long Island University Brooklyn at Tiger Park.
Though the individual section of the LSU record book is littered with Bell’s name, it’s the team’s accomplishments as it seeks a second consecutive trip to the Women’s College World Series that are preoccupying Bell’s thoughts. It’s been that way ever since she arrived from Tampa, Florida, four years ago.
“I don’t really look for stuff like that,” Bell said of her records. “I’ll probably look at it once I get done with softball here.”
Bell and her teammates hope they aren’t done for a while. The winner of the Baton Rouge regional, which also features McNeese State and Arizona State, will face the winner of the Harrisonburg (Virginia) regional in a super regional next weekend to determine a berth in the WCWS.
For however long this season continues, Bell will be batting in the No. 3 spot and be the No. 1 concern of opposing pitchers.
“The most impressive thing to me is her ability to hit the ball as hard as she does and spark the offense like she does,” second baseman Constance Quinn said.
Bell was named to the Southeastern Conference all-tournament team last weekend after going 5-for-11 with a home run as the Tigers advanced to the title game before losing to Auburn.
She leads the team in batting average (.395), slugging percentage (.691) and on-base percentage (.552).
“A lot of people don’t think she’s doing as amazing as she’s done in the past and she’s still hitting almost .400,” catcher Kellsi Kloss said.
Bell’s home run against Tennessee in the SEC tournament semifinals was her 12th of the season, tying her with Sahvanna Jaquish for the team lead.
Jaquish marvels at how quickly Bell’s homers can leave the park.
“I think the most impressive (homers) are the ones that leave the park before we can even try to walk out of the dugout,” Jaquish said. “They’re already gone.”
It’s not just the homers that are eye-catching.
??The speed with which the ball comes off her bat is very different. It’s special,” coach Beth Torina said. “She hits the ball so hard it’s tough to even field a ground ball off her bat.”
Opposing pitchers try to avoid having anything come off Bell’s bat. She has taken 47 walks this season, the most on the team.
“She knows very well what’s a strike and what’s a ball and when it’s a moment when she can be aggressive and when it’s a moment when she needs to be a little more passive,” outfielder Sandra Simmons said.
Even when Bell doesn’t walk, opposing pitchers tend to be very careful with her, which is something Tigers pitcher Carley Hoover understands.
“I wouldn’t give her anything good to hit,” Hoover said.
Bell said it’s easy for her to accept walks because hitting right behind her are Jaquish and Kloss, the second- and third-most prolific home run hitters in LSU history.
“Our lineup is pretty stacked from top to bottom, so I know that I don’t need to be the person to win the game,” Bell said. “I can be selfless enough to take the walk or the hit by pitch or whatever they throw at me and find a way on base knowing that the people behind me can drive me in and drive the others in.”
Bell has shown her selflessness in the field as well by embracing a move from shortstop to third base to create room for freshman Amber Serrett.
“Amber is a phenomenal shortstop, so we’re not losing anything,” Bell said. “She’s doing a great job over there for us and I think her being at shortstop and me being at third base is going to cause us to win more games. I’m definitely OK with that.”
Torina said Bell’s move and the insertion of Serrett into the lineup solidified the infield defensively.
“That was special for her to do that for the team,” Torina said. “It was something she was comfortable with. She played third for Team USA in the summer. It shows that she just wants to win and she’ll do whatever it takes for us to win.”
At third base, Bell has shorter reaction time on balls hit her way and she’s more likely to have to deal with bunts.
“I like it better because I don’t have time to think,” she said. “At shortstop I have a million things going on in my head, at third it’s just all reaction.
“I came here because I wanted to win. If coach wants me at third base or shortstop, if that means us winning, that’s what I want to do.”
As much as Bell’s individual records have contributed to the team’s success, so has her selflessness.
“Bianka is a very humble player and I love that about her,” Quinn said. “When you humble yourself and don’t exalt yourself above anyone and you play for selfless reasons and put the team before you those things happen.”
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate