Ponder excited to help USC Union softball program get up and running

Polk County's Ashley Ponder (front center) signed a letter-of-intent Wednesday to play softball at USC Union. Also present were her parents, Bobby Ponder and Crystal Ponder, and back row, from left: Polk County head softball coach Billy Alm, Polk County assistant softball coach Brandy Alm, USC Union head softball coach Amanda Warley and Polk County High School principal Brandon Schweitzer

There will be a lot of new in Ashley Ponder’s life next fall – new college, new state and a brand-new softball program to join.

Nerve-inducing? A bit, Ponder admits – but she still can’t wait for the experience to begin.

With family and friends watching, the Polk County senior signed a letter-of-intent Wednesday to continue her softball career at the University of South Carolina Union.

The Bantams are in the process of launching their program, planning to play beginning with the 2017-2018 school year as a Division I member of the National Junior College Athletic Association. Ponder will be part of the program’s first class.

“It’s very exciting for me to be part of the first year of a new program,” Ponder said. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about (USC Union head coach Amanda Warley) and I’m looking forward to it.

“I’m a little nervous about it. I’ve always had the same travel ball coach and I’ve worked well with Coach (Billy) Alm here. But I think I’ll fit in well there. I’m excited.”

Ponder hit .389 in an injury-shortened junior season for the Wolverines, driving in six runs. She has also played five seasons for South Carolina-based Full Count Softball.

“She’s very solid defensively and offensively,” said Warley, who attended the signing ceremony. “She will add a lot to our lineup next year. We’ve got a great class coming in and she will add to that.

“We definitely were looking for people who were very good academically, people who off the field work with their parents and coaches as well as just having an all-around good attitude.”

Ponder will bring just that type of attitude and work ethic to the USC Union program, where she plans to also begin pursuing her career goal of being a physical therapist.

“The school is not that big, and I felt really at home there,” Ponder said. “It felt like where I needed to be. It’s a really good fit for me.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a kid. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders knowing I’m going to get to continue playing softball.”