Just 43 feet separate home plate from the pitching rubber in collegiate softball, and Vivian Ponn wants to dominate on both ends of it.
The Covid-freshman has appeared in 17 career games with the University of South Florida Bulls, almost exclusively as a pitcher, posting a 4.10 ERA to go along with six strikeouts in 29 innings pitched prior to Wednesday’s game.
Ponn, who along with all NCAA spring athletes was granted a free year of eligibility because of the pandemic, has earned an unusually high workload to start her career.
“It was a little overwhelming at first, I was a freshman, so playing all those top teams in the country, it was a great experience, but yes it was overwhelming,” said Ponn. “Once I started getting in the groove a little bit, I felt comfortable.”
“I felt comfortable because my teammates made me feel comfortable when they’re playing behind me.”
This feeling of trust was reciprocal, as Ponn was called upon to successfully close out a combined no-hitter with teammate Georgina Corrick in February of 2020.
Ponn has settled in nicely at USF as a pitcher, steadily improving her mechanics since her arrival – she even struck out a member of the US Women’s National Team during a scrimmage last year. However, her sights are set on more than just strikeouts.
“I do want to be like George [Corrick]. I want to rake, and I want to hit homeruns just like her,” Ponn said.
The prospect of hitting home runs is nothing new to the Florida native, who won offensive player of the year three consecutive times at Fort Myers High School – yet, she only has nine career collegiate at bats.
Assistant coach Tommy Santiago believes Ponn’s predicament is simply a matter of circumstance, and with hard work, opportunity will arise.
“In the future, I really do see her as a pretty solid hitter for us in the lineup. But she’s still training every day, she’s getting better … she has the power, she has the mindset, she has everything,” said Santiago, noting the backlog of talent within USF’s softball program.
“We’ve got like 92 kids on the roster, so it’s kind of tough, we can only put nine out there. It’s tricky. She’s hit constantly through practices in her freshman year last year and this year, so she’s developing nicely.”
Ponn and the Bulls play a three-game series against Team USA beginning this Friday, before resuming NCAA play the following week against North Dakota.