Even at a young age, Blue Springs senior Bella Andrews wasn’t one who would back down from a challenge.
When she was in elementary and middle school, Andrews was one of the few girls playing with and against boys in sports. She started playing baseball at age 7 and was forced to switch to softball at 14 since competitive teams would no longer let girls play, she said.
She wanted to compete against boys from the beginning as many of her best friends were males growing up. Andrews wasn’t one to shy away from the challenge.
She’s carried that competitiveness over to the Blue Springs softball team as Andrews has emerged as one of the premier power hitters in the Kansas City area.
“I think what playing with boys did was give her a tough mental attitude,” Blue Springs softball coach Jim Brandner said. “She’s a competitor and she doesn’t back down. She’s ready for any challenge.”
While playing baseball, Andrews was often teased as some opponents didn’t take her seriously. Meanwhile, she was blowing fastballs by her male counterparts as a pitcher and often ripped extra-base hits over outfielders.
“I got teased a lot,” she said. “The other team would say, ‘Oh, there’s a girl up to bat!’ And they would make fun of me.
“That helped me as a player, dealing with them and being able to block them out.”
She still enjoyed the experience, especially playing with the boys on her team.
“There was a lot of horseplay on the team,” Andrews said. “They didn’t care about your feelings. They were going to tell you how it is. It was great. I loved hanging out with them. They were a lot of fun.”
Andrews proved she could compete with anyone, and even did so as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Brittany Hill Middle School football team. She thrived at both positions, racking up a few sacks on defense and pancaking defenders on offense.
“It was so fun to hit people without getting in trouble,” Andrews said with a smile.
She started playing softball in seventh grade and it was a steep challenge to transition to the new sport at first.
“Hitting was definitely the biggest struggle,” Andrews said. “The first two years I couldn’t hit at all. I was striking out all the time. Softball is so different. The bat is different and the pitches are different. It was hard.”
Now she’s slamming home runs for the Wildcats. Andrews hit six home runs in her first seven games, including two against crosstown rival Blue Springs South. Even with a recent slump, she's hitting .383 with six homers, five doubles, 20 RBIs, an .872 slugging percentage and a 1.346 OPS (on base plus slugging).
“I want to get 16 home runs for sure,” Andrews said. “I changed my mentality of being more relaxed in the box. I chill out a little bit. Last year I got in my own head and thought I needed to get a hit. This year, I am having fun and getting some hits.”
She is more motivated than ever to hit the ball over the fence as many times as possible. She wants to exceed the 14 home runs Truman graduate Chloe Armstrong hit in 2017, which is tied for fifth most in state history. It’s been a goal of hers since her sophomore year.
“Coach (Brandner) and her actually decided if she breaks that record, she’d get the number she has with her competitive team, which is 99,” Blue Springs senior outfielder Savannah Maynard said.
Andrews credits her power surge to more frequent visits to the weight room in the summer. Her hard work helped her gain 15 pounds of muscle since last season.
“I was 180 (pounds) last year and now I am 195,” she said.
After such a hot start, Brandner doesn’t think Andrews will cool off any time soon, and thinks she could hit 15 or more home runs.
“I think she has a chance to hit one out every time she comes up,” Brandner said. “If she swings to hit lots of base hits, some of her mishits carry out and it’s a home run. She’s so strong.”
With season that’s shaping up to be a breakout year, Andews is hoping to continue playing in college and is eyeing Pittsburg State.
“Our catcher Maddie (Kielty) is going to play there and I want to join her,” Andrews said. “I think it would be fun to go together.”