WINTER HAVEN — When the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the Polk State softball team’s season in 2020, Osheiauna Phifer was bummed out — as were thousands of athletes near and far.
For Phifer, in particular, it was an early end to a strong freshman season for the Eagles. A Winter Haven High alumna, Phifer was hitting .412 and had four stolen bases in her first season at the college level.
So, the Blue Devil-turned-Eagle got to work during what became an extended offseason — and the results are significant.
As of April 1, Phifer led the state (NJCAA Region 8) and the nation (NJCAA Division I) in batting average (she is hitting .692) and stolen bases (she has 44).
In the case of stolen bases, Phifer has six more than the two players nearest to her total.
“I think it’s just more reps and focusing more,” Phifer said, reflecting on how she’s managed such pronounced improvement from her freshman to sophomore seasons. “Last year, I struggled with a couple things, but I just kept practicing and practicing.”
Phifer, whose first name is pronounced “Osh-ee-ana,” says she has a net and a tee at home — and the aid of her mother, who she says was happy to help her train. She says she hopes to transition to a four-year college softball program as she concludes her time at Polk State and is interested in becoming a travel nurse.
On the field, Phifer and her teammates have begun to shake off a slow start to the season. Polk State (4-11) lost eight consecutive games to begin the season — on top of several pandemic-related cancellations — but has since bounced back to win four of its past seven games entering an April 1 double-header against St. Petersburg College.
Not content with her personal achievements, Phifer said the outlook for the team remains strong and that the Eagles enjoy navigating this unique season together.
“We’re doing so much better,” she said. “We all get along and our energy is always good — even if we’re losing, we’re up.”
Follow along with the Polk State softball team — and the college’s other programs — at PolkEagles.com.