Porter, Barna take next step
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
Feather River College has become a South Tahoe High softball player launching pad.
South Tahoe alums Vanessa Porter and Jill Barna have parlayed their two-year careers at the Quincy, Calif., junior college into extended playing time at four-year institutions.
Porter, a former ace pitcher for the Vikings, will continue her softball career at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich., while Barna will resume her catching duties at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.
“We thought we were going to the same college,” Barna said. “It’s (sad) that she’s going all way to Michigan, but it’s awesome that we both are getting what we wanted.”
Both players received scholarships after they took an active role of promoting themselves following a year away from the playing field.
“My coach sent a letter about me and I was called out for a visit,” Porter said. “I went out there for a tryout and it turned out a lot better than she was expecting.”
So well that Porter might be a starting pitcher instead of a reliever.
“I’m a little nervous about (not playing last year), but hopefully practicing every day in the fall will help me get back,” said Porter, who received a $12,000-a-year scholarship from Concordia.
Porter had a 2.60 earned run average and .329 batting average with a team-leading 15 RBIs during her sophomore season at Feather River.
She spent last season serving as the school’s pitching coach, giving her a unique perspective that few active players experience.
“It helped me look at how to pitch differently … each pitcher has their own style and there’s different ways to work around things,” Porter said. “I tried to watch videos, read books and learn about coaching.”
The experience only reaffirmed her goals of coaching at the collegiate level following graduation.
Rich Barna, Porter’s mentor at South Tahoe, believes Concordia is getting a type of player coaches covet.
“Vanessa’s an extreme competitor,” Barna said. “She was a joy to coach … very astute, hardworking, always practiced hard and worked to improve herself as a pitcher.”
Jill, Barna’s daughter, hit .280 during her sophomore season at Feather River. She didn’t play while attending Sonoma State last year but wasn’t ready to give up her softball dreams.
“I decided I wasn’t done playing and I just put the footwork into motion,” Barna said. “It mostly was the support of my family and my brothers, always believing in me.”
Jill contacted Northwest Nazarene second-year coach Julie Coert about the possibility of joining her program and it wasn’t long before the Crusaders gave her a partial scholarship. Coert spoke to coach Barna about his daughter and then reviewed a highlight tape and put her throughout a tryout before making a decision.
“I see her as adding some immediate leadership being in the catcher position and that will be important for us,” Coert said. “I think she will fit in and do very well for us in our conference.”
Coert was also convinced that Jill really wanted to come to the private school.
“I want to make sure they want to go here for the right reasons,” Coert said. “Playing softball is the icing on the cake.”
Like her former teammate Porter, Barna couldn’t stay away from the game last year. She was an assistant coach for the Santa Rosa Rugrats, an under-18 club softball team.
“It was a lot of fun coaching and being involved with the game,” Barna said. “I would practice with them but I’ve done a lot on my own (to stay in playing shape) by going to batting cages and doing drills.”
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