Federal Way baseball coaches and players know their third baseman Brandham Ponce only as “Ponce.”
When he does something spectacular, he’s Ponce. When he lets a ball go through the wickets, it’s more like “Ponce!”
Either way, through the first five games of his sophomore season, Ponce’s bat is on fire. The Eagles’ prized prospect was untouchable in Federal Way’s 14-6 win over the Decatur Golden Gators, Thursday, at Decatur High School.
Ponce led his Eagles with two home runs, an RBI double and four total RBIs in the win. The outpouring of runs came as a surprise to Eagles manager Arlo Evasick since his club’s been stuck in the gym the last three days.
“It was OK,” Evasick said. “Offensively [it] was good, base running was really good. That was our talk today before the game. It’s what we wanted to focus on. Defensively, it’s still bad, but we haven’t been outside. Since the last game we haven’t been outside, so there’s still adjustments to make. You could tell it’s early still.”
The casual baseball fan, however, saw near offensive perfection from Federal Way (4-1, 2-1).
Decatur (0-2, -2) starting pitcher Michael Fitzpatrick had a memorable first inning, striking out two of the Eagles’ first three hitters.
After Gabe Togia led off the second inning with a ground out to short, however, Ponce promptly took a first-pitch fastball from Fitzpatrick and crushed it over the left-center field wall to give Federal Way a 1-0 lead.
The Ponce home run woke up the Eagle bats as they put a string of five straight hits together for a four-run second inning.
“We definitely have the ability to put contagious hitting together,” Evasick said. “I really thought we would need more reps from being stuck inside, but they really got it going.”
Decatur senior captain Dylan Lydell and junior Ben Ray answered for the Gators in the bottom half of the inning.
Lydell led off the bottom of the second inning with a double and scored on an error at shortstop. Ray knocked in Decatur’s second run of the inning with a double in the left-field gap.
The two sides traded runs over the next two innings, but the back-and-forth stopped when Ponce came to the plate in the top of the fifth.
For a second time, he didn’t wait long for a pitch he liked. Ponce took a third-pitch elevated fastball and hit it sky high to left center field. The breezy conditions carried the ball enough to get it over the wall for a two-run home run. The blast gave Federal Way a 7-3 lead.
“It’s good,” Evasick said. “He barreled some balls up against Beamer and didn’t have anything to show for it. He’s just seeing the ball well.”
Ponce put the game completely out of reach in the sixth inning with an RBI double to center, pushing the Eagles’ lead to 11-5.
Despite the display of power, Evasick said he was most impressed with Ponce’s double.
During every moment of the at-bat, Evasick said he saw Ponce make the correct adjustment he and Eagles hitting coach Ron Sherwin have been working on.
“It was the best ball he hit all day, as far as in balance and staying behind the baseball,” Evasick said. “It was on time. It was good.”
The loss to Beamer on March 16 was the only game this season Ponce finished without a hit. He has accumulated eight this season through five games.
The third baseman formally known as Ponce is a game changer.
It could be why the sophomore is already being courted by numerous Division I programs, such as West Virginia, University of Nevada-Reno and Washington State. The University of Washington has already placed a scholarship on the table.
If he continues the tear he’s on and helps Federal Way to a state championship run, the guy affectionately known as Ponce will blaze a trail into homes all over the country.
“He’s probably the best right-handed power bat in his class in the Northwest,” Evasick said. “We’re slowly trying to introduce him to the outfield so he has more options as he continues to grow and get even better.”