Catchers have been known to suffer through all manners of physical abuse behind home plate.
It’s part of the job description.
North Buncombe junior Michael Ponder is a special case though.
Ponder was leading Western North Carolina baseball in batting average as of last week.
And Ponder said following Tuesday’s 7-1 home loss to McDowell that he is determined to play out this season even though rest is the recommended treatment for a stress fracture in his back.
“Some days are better than others,” Ponder said.
“Some days it doesn’t bother me much at all, and others are really bad with the inflammation. But I want to be out here for my team.”
Ponder is a second-year starter for the Black Hawks (4-13, 2-6) who is batting .538 out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup with team-high totals in RBIs (11), doubles (six), triples (one) and home runs (one). Not only that, North Buncombe coach Matt Landreth allows Ponder to call every pitch the team makes.
“He’s hitting a heck of a ball right now for us,” Landreth said.
“There’s a kid who you almost have to keep away from the game, because he is constantly in the cage and working to get better. The big thing with Michael is that if you love the game of baseball, it will love you right back. He is proof of that.”
Ponder hit .364 with 28 RBIs and 11 doubles in 2014 to garner honorable mention All-Mountain Athletic Conference honors. One year later, Ponder is taking a minimalist approach at the plate.
“I’m just going up there and not trying to do too much,” he said.
Ponder specializes in baseball and doesn’t play any other high school sports. He was part of the South Charlotte Panthers showcase organization in the fall, but doesn’t yet know his plans for this summer.
Returning starters were few and far between for North Buncombe after graduating seven seniors in 2014. It’s been an adjustment, Ponder said.
“Losing all that power was tough,” he said.
“We’re more of a small ball team now. Errors are really what’s killing us. We’ve been struggling with that.”
The next scheduled game for North Buncombe is Friday at home against Enka (9-4, 4-4). The first pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in Weaverville.