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Bell hit .423 in her junior year at Penn State.

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Bell attributes her success to instincts and her changed attitude following surgery.

An emergency appendectomy almost prematurely ended Cassidy Bell's junior season at Penn State.

But instead of ruining the good thing the former Liberty High softball standout had going, it only propelled her to a record-breaking year.

The hard-hitting outfielder set new school marks in batting average (.423) and slugging percentage (.784) on the way to being the only field player to earn unanimous All-Big Ten First Team honors.

Bell, who posted the second highest single-season on-base percentage (.529) in school history, was also a NFCA All-Great Lakes First Team selection.

Forced to miss 18 games to recover from the surgery, Bell nearly decided to take a medical redshirt and sit out the year. However, just as the Big Ten season was about to begin, she was finally cleared to play again.

Bell credits the surgery for helping her have a big year at the plate.

"I think that it kind of helped because I was like, 'I had surgery, so whatever I do doesn't matter'," Bell said. "If I do bad, I had surgery. If I do good, then whatever. I feel that (because of the surgery) I didn't put as much pressure on myself."

The three-year Nittany Lions starter was coming off a sophomore year in which she hit .280 after altering both her approach at the plate and her swing.

Bell said those changes were another big reason for her lofty junior-season batting numbers.

"My sophomore year I was still getting the hang of it," Bell said. "And then my junior year I was able perfect it, make it a little better. I didn't have to think as much."

The results proved to be impressive in every way. Not only did Bell raise her batting average by 143 points, she also smacked a career-high nine home runs despite missing nearly one-third of the season.

Bell believes her biggest strength as a softball player is how she plays the game.

"I feel like I understand the game really well," she said. "I don't have to think about anything. I can just go out and play. I know some girls; their downfall is that they think too much, or they don't just play. They overanalyze everything. When I get out on the field, I know what I'm going to do when I get the ball. I think I have good instincts on the field."

Bell, a .330 career hitter, was Penn State's offensive player of the year as a freshman. As a sophomore, she was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team.

Impressive feats, but they pale by comparison to what the Bakersfield native accomplished in 2012.

Now all that is left it to see what she will do for an encore.

"I'm just playing to try to keep the same mind-set, the same focus and forget about last year and do my best," Bell said of her approach to the upcoming season. "Don't think about numbers. Don't think about anything. Just stick to what I know I can do and relax, and just keep going." Cassidy Bell

Born Aug. 2, 1991 in Bakersfield

Family includes parents John and Stacey Bell and two siblings, James and Hailey

Played softball competitively since third grade.

Chosen following senior year of high school as First Team All-State, First Team All-Area, Southeast Yosemite League MVP, Liberty High MVP, and Kern County All-Star Game MVP.

Led Central Section in batting average (.587) and was Liberty High MVP as a junior.

Competed along with softball in cross country and soccer in high school.

Achieved honor roll status all four years of high school.

Won Penn State softball team's Iron Lion Triathlon (300-yard swim, 5.2 mile bicycle ride, 2 mile run) in record time of 40 minutes and 39 seconds in October.

Earned a 3.09 GPA and is scheduled to graduate later this year with a degree in kinesiology.

Hopes to play softball professionally in Europe after finishing college eligibility.