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File / The Herald Holtville shortstop Bella Farmer had nine RBIs in four games at the East Central Regional last week.

For the second straight year, the Holtville softball program had a player sign a Division I scholarship. Infielder Bella Farmer has been committed to South Alabama for a while but she made things official last Tuesday during Holtville’s signing ceremony. 

“I was just really proud of myself in that moment,” Farmer said. “I feel like this is something I have been working on forever. It felt really good to have the support from the community and be surrounded by my friends and family.”

In two years, Farmer has a .368 batting average in 340 plate appearances and has hit 15 home runs as the team’s starting shortstop. She helped Holtville return to the state tournament last season with two home runs at super regionals.

“She has a great bat and she has the strongest arm I have seen in a long time,” Holtville first-year coach Kaelin Dawson said. “I think her biggest thing is she is a very intelligent student in school and in softball. Her mental ability really makes her stand out.”

Farmer expects to stay as a middle infielder at the next level but she could move to third base or become a full-time utility player for the Jaguars. She is one of five players in the 2020 signing class for South Alabama, which is ranked No. 50 nationally by Extra Innings Softball.

“Bella adds depth to our infield with the ability to play second, short and third,” South Alabama coach Becky Clark said in a press release. “Defensively, she has above average range, glove and arm. Offensively, she will hit for both average and power from the right side. Her overall softball IQ and ballplayer instincts help round out our 2020 class.”

Despite receiving many other offers including West Point and Shelton State, Farmer chose South Alabama as soon as she visited. The Jaguars invited her to the campus after seeing film and offered a scholarship on the visit.

“I felt like that’s something you’d just know when you visited somewhere and that’s where I felt most at home,” Farmer said. “It’s hard to explain but it was like having a second family. They are there for the kids no matter what even when it’s not about softball.”

Farmer was joined by teammate Brooke Cooper at her signing ceremony. Cooper, who is expected to be Holtville’s No. 1 pitcher for the 2020 season, signed with Coastal Alabama Community College.

Farmer and Cooper will be separated by less than 50 miles so Farmer said they can stay in touch and she hopes they will get a chance to play together again after Cooper finishes her two years at Coastal. No matter where they end up, Dawson said it was great to see two players from her program extend their careers.

“It was a very exciting day,” Dawson said. “Without even starting the season, it shows me that we have a great group of seniors to work with. I expect big things from them still even though they already signed away their futures and it’s exciting to know we have that kind of talent to work with.”

Dawson is in her first year at the helm of the program but wasted no time making an impact and  she has high expectations for Farmer and Cooper. Dawson said she hopes her time as a player in college can help her guide the players in the right direction.

“I think we can all agree that I am a little bit harder on them but they know to expect it,” Dawson said. “I tell them that I am here to mentally prepare you for the next level. I’ve been there before and I’ve coached there before so I know what it takes.”

Farmer said she knows she will have to work hard to prepare for South Alabama but she is ready to put in the time and effort. After having a down year by her own standards at the plate, Farmer has high hopes for herself and the Bulldogs in her final season. 

“I want to have the best season I have ever had here,” Farmer said. “I hope that it can have an impact on becoming a starter once I get there and maybe it will carry over some success.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.