Victories adding up behind math whiz Dana Bell

Bell is a freshman sensation at Archbishop Ryan, and softball is helping her become a math whiz.

Freshman Dana Bell led Ryan to a first-place finish in Catholic League play. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Sometimes sports can be a great teacher.

Just ask Dana Bell, the freshman sensation pitcher for the Archbishop Ryan High School softball team.

Bell has always been a strong student, but now her top subject is math. It was through softball that she became a math whiz.

“When I was playing 12-U, we got a program that kept our stats,” Bell said. “I remember checking them. I would do the math to make sure they were right. That helped me a little, it helped me become more comfortable with it.”

Bell, who is a member of Ryan’s mathletes team, is one of the top students in her class. She’s also one of the top pitchers in the Catholic League.

This year, she became the starter early in the year and it proved to be a great move.

In guiding Ryan to a first-place finish in the Catholic League, Bell went 14–1 with a 1.32 earned run average. She notched 178 strikeouts in 94 innings, which is quite impressive considering the talent she faced in Catholic League play.

She also helped the Ragdolls defeat Cardinal O’Hara 2–1 in a Catholic League quarterfinal. They’ll meet Archbishop Wood on Wednesday, the winner goes to the championship.

“I’ve played tournament ball for years, but the Catholic League has the best players,” Bell said. “Every team has good players. It’s hard because every team has good hitters. But I was confident coming in and I’ve done well, especially because I’ve had a lot of help from my teammates.”

Bell has had support from everyone on her team, but this year she has leaned heavily on one teammate, Sarah Vargas.

Last year, Vargas was the Ragdolls’ starting pitcher, but this year she’s shifted over to first base. But she’s done much more than just provide great defense and a strong bat for the Ragdolls.

“Sarah has really helped me a lot,” Bell said. “Whenever I’m not pitching great or something doesn’t go my way, she comes out and calms me down. She’s a great pitcher, too. I’ve had a lot of people help me, but whenever I need something, Sarah helps me. She’s really helped get me to where I need to be this year.”

Bell is quick to pass out praise, not just to Vargas and senior catcher Haley Burns, but to all of her teammates, but her pitching was a huge reason for the Ragdolls’ success.

The Bensalem resident has played tournament ball for Newtown and Hatboro before moving to the Chaos, a team based out of Delaware County, last year. She’s brought all that experience to the Catholic League and has done a good job frustrating batters and coming up with clutch hits on offense.

“I try to just get ahead of batters and I like to think I’m overpowering, but it’s hard to be in high school because the hitters are good,” Bell said. “I’ve pitched pretty well, I think, but I’m trying to do better. It helps to have great players behind me.”

Bell has a point. The Ragdolls, while young, have made all the plays they’ve needed to, which is why they finished atop the Catholic League standings.

But the playoffs are a different animal, as all of the players from last year’s team can attest.

Last year was the first time in four years that the Ragdolls didn’t bring home the Catholic League championship. But despite being a very young team, Ryan advanced to the Catholic League semifinals. That experience can only help this year. And while Bell wasn’t a part of that run, she’s happy her teammates enter the postseason with experience.

“The regular season was good, but the playoffs will be tough,” Bell said. “Every game is big, and you have butterflies in every game. I know when I go out, it takes a few pitches to settle down. But then it’s about playing softball, something we all do and love to do.”

Bell loves everything about the team. She also loves everything about the school.

As strong as Bell’s softball season has been, she’s a student first and an athlete second. And that sits just fine with her coaches.

“I love playing for Ryan because Coach (John Kidwell) knows that there are going to be times that I miss practice or have to come late because of mathletes,” Bell said. “I’ve had to be late a few times and they are very understanding because they know I’m doing something that will help me with school while representing Ryan.

“I’m really happy I came here. I love the team, I love everything about the school and we had a great year. That just made it even better.”