PREP BASEBALL: To the next level

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Ponder officially signs to play baseball at UNC Asheville

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Mitchell High School senior Zeus Ponder puts a pen to paper and makes his decision to play college baseball at UNC Asheville official Wednesday, Nov. 13, during a ceremonial signing in front of his family, friends and coaches. Ponder, a right-handed pitcher, will join the Bulldogs next fall after graduating in May. (Cory Spiers/MNJ)

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LEDGER – Mitchell High School senior Zeus Ponder has officially signed to play college baseball at the University of North Carolina Asheville.

Ponder, who has been verbally committed to UNCA since his sophomore year, finalized his decision and became an official commit by putting pen to paper Wednesday, Nov. 13, during a ceremonial signing in front of his family, friends and coaches in the commons area at Mitchell High School. 

Ponder will graduate in June and will begin his college career in the fall.

Ponder said he visited several schools when deciding where he would begin the next chapter of his life and baseball career, but UNCA stood alone as his favorite.

“It was just a lot different from all the other places,” Ponder said. “I could just tell it was the right place that I wanted to be. I’m really excited to get there.”

Ponder will join a UNCA team that is looking to improve on a 16-36 campaign in 2019. The Bulldogs compete in the NCAA Division-I Big South Conference.

The Bulldogs are guided by sixth-year head coach Scott Friedholm who led the team to 91 victories during the first four seasons of his tenure. 

Ponder, who is guaranteed a roster spot as a scholarship recipient, will primarily pitch for the Bulldogs, as he did at Mitchell. 

Ponder garnered plenty of attention as a junior for the Mitchell varsity baseball team last season. The right-hander pitched in nine games and posted a team-best 5-1 record and a 2.45 ERA. He struck out a team-high 71 compared to just 23 walks, and opponents managed a paltry .214 batting average against him. 

Ponder’s strong season also featured a no-hitter, and he allowed just 14 earned runs on the season.  

Despite Ponder’s high school success, he said he is ready to accept whatever role Friedholm asks him to fill. 

“I guess we’ll decide when and how much I pitch when I get there,” he said. 

Ponder becomes the second pitcher from last year’s Mitchell baseball team to sign to play college baseball, joining now graduated right-hander Caleb Pritchard, who signed this past May to pitch at Milligan College. 

Ponder said his staying close to home for college allows his family, who comes to all of his games, to continue to watch him play regularly.

“My grandparents and parents come to almost every game,” Ponder said. “They’ll still be able to come and see my games, so that’s cool.”