AS A year-round, multi-sport high school athlete, Victoria Fontana was plenty busy and plenty battled-tested.
So when it came to playing immediately as a freshman for the Brenau University softball team, the former Jackson County center fielder felt zero nervousness.
“Because I played so many sports and had such a competitive mentality, I knew what I was there to do and I had to get it done and it just made it a really easy adjustment,” she said.
And Fontana certainly got it done.
Starting in all 45 games in which she played, Fontana — who played at Jackson County Comprehensive High School from 2009-2012 — hit .346 in the leadoff spot for Brenau this spring and made the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) all-freshman team. She was also an all-division selection for the SSAC East as Brenau enjoyed a 34-13 season.
“Vic is definitely just a one-of-a-kind athlete for sure,” said Jackson County softball coach Chessie Laird, who coached Fontana in both middle school and high school. “I think she’s probably one of the most gifted athletes who’s come out of Jackson County ever.”
Laird said what Fontana — who also played basketball and soccer and competed in track and field in high school — accomplished at Brenau as a freshman was “amazing.” While some freshmen may be intimidated by the college game, Fontana didn’t miss a beat.
“For her, it just seemed like it was another day at the field,” Laird said. “She was the same ol’ Vic.”
The challenge of playing at the next level didn’t stop Fontana, but a freak postseason injury did.
During Brenau’s first game of the SSAC tournament, Fontana drove a base hit between third base and shortstop and that’s when she twisted her knee and tore ligaments. Just like that, she was done, and Brenau went on to lose two of three games in the SSAC tournament. Season over.
She called the injury “devastating.”
“I knew we could do so well in that tournament and then the first at bat just took that all away from me, so I’m just having to stay positive through it all,” Fontana said.
As she moves toward her sophomore season, Fontana is looking at rehab three times a week, and an MRI will determine if surgery is needed. She has several months to recover, however, and hopes to be back by the spring — even if she has to undergo surgery.
Injury aside, Fontana was pleased with her freshman season at Brenau, especially with her performance at the plate as her .346 average ranked fifth on the team.
“Especially because during high school, hitting was kind of weakness for me, but our hitting coach definitely taught me a lot of new things,” she said. “Through out the whole season, I was pretty pleased with my performance.”
That includes defense, too. Fontana committed just two errors all season long. She actually takes more joy in her defensive game, where her speed and competitive nature suit her well.
“Personally, I like defense better, but sometimes I kind of wish I could play every position because I always want the ball hit to me,” Fontana said. “I always want to be in the play. I always want to be throwing somebody out or diving and catching the ball.”
Fontana said the time she spent playing for Jackson County — where she helped the Panthers win Region 8-AAA in 2012 and finish fourth in Class AAA — definitely eased the adjustment to the college game. She said Laird never urged her to concentrate on a certain sport, but at the same time knew she possessed a lot of softball talent. So Laird and assistant coach Joseph Laird helped cultivate that talent.
“So there would be times that I would stay after practice and hit with them or I would show up early,” she said.
Laird, who still talks to Fontana regularly, said she’s extremely proud of how Fontana has represented Jackson County at the next level, especially having coached her since eighth grade.
“Being able to see her come along has been something special,” she said.
Fontana said she’s “really excited” about Brenau’s prospects for next season. She’s eying more wins, a better run in the conference tournament and even reaching the NAIA tournament, which Brenau missed out on this past year.
“And then just gelling as a team,” she said. “It’s all about unity because you can’t play by yourself. I expect all of us to be a big family, to be healthy and to work together to go through conference and nationals.”
Of course, she’s still got to get healthy, but Fontana is definitely happy with this phase of her softball career and where she’s playing.
“I love Brenau,” she said. “I’m so happy that I picked this school.”
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