Gia Rodoni has always been fired up for the big game.
The former Pacheco star and current Baylor University sophomore pitcher can’t wait for this weekend’s series against No. 8 Oklahoma (39-7). The No. 12 Bears (35-7) travel to Norman for the three-game series beginning today against the defending national champions.
Rodoni is scheduled to pitch on Saturday.
“I’m so ready,” Rodoni said. “I’m excited to take it on. We’ve prepared all week for this and we’re looking forward to this series for a long time.”
Rodoni is enjoying a strong sophomore season as the Bears No. 2 starter. The right-hander brings an 11-1 record and 1 .81 ERA into this weekend’s Big 12 showdown. Rodoni has surrendered just 70 hits and 20 walks to go along with 107 strikeouts in 92 and 2/3 innings pitched.
“It’s awesome to see what she’s doing,” said Charlie Pikas, who coached Rodoni at Pacheco High. “”I got to see her pitch in person down in Fullerton. She’s been great. My own kids look up to her and love her to death. She’s a special one.
I love it. It’s so cool to be on Twitter or Facebook and see something pop up after a win with her face on it.”
Rodoni feels more comfortable in her second season. As freshman last year, she began the season with the intent to redshirt. However, that changed a week before conference play started and she made six starts for Baylor. She finished with a 6-1 record and a 3.35 ERA in 37 and 1/3 innings.
“I learned really quick having velocity won’t get you anywhere,” Rodoni said. “You have to be able to hit your spots and have movement on your pitches. I’ll take that over velocity. In high school I could get away with missing your spots more.”
Rodoni said her command of her pitches is her biggest improvement from last year to this year. She’s also shown an ability to adapt, even during a game.
In a game earlier this season, Baylor quickly discovered Rodoni was tipping her changeup. A third base coach was able to see her grip on the ball and was able to communicate to her hitters when Rodoni was going to throw the changeup.
“The grip is the same for all my pitches except my changeup,” Rodoni said. “So she was yelling sit back when she could see I was throwing it.”
In between innings, Rodoni went and worked on a change in her windup that would hide the ball from the third base coach. She has since made that her normal delivery so the problem hasn’t popped up again.
Her role as the No. 2 starter gives her the advantage of being able to study her opponent during the first game of the series on Fridays as senior Kelsee Selman attacks the lineup.
“On Friday I just watch and observe the other team’s lineup and how our senior does against them,” Rodoni said. “I try to take that into the next game.”
Rodoni is loving her time at Baylor. She loves the thunderstorms. Her brother Thor is on the football team and is close by when she needs family. She’s also having a blast playing on this softball team.
“My first year at Baylor, I proved I’m supposed to be here. That this is where I belong,” Rodoni said. “Now in my second year I feel more part of the team. I love our team chemistry.”
Here’s a quick look at how other local athletes are faring so far this season.
Chelsea Evans (Merced High/Stony Brook) – The former Bears star has started in all 32 games for the Seawolves this season and is hitting .364 with 14 RBIs and is second on the team with 16 runs scored.
Taylor Mendez (Los Banos High/University of Mary) – Mendez helped the Marauders sweep a doubleheader from Minnesota Crookston on Wednesday by going 3-for-5 in the two games with three runs scored and two RBIs. Mendez is hitting .331 this season and is leading the team with eight home runs and 28 RBIs.
Madilyn Nickles (Merced High/UCLA) – Last year’s Gatorade National High School Player of the Year hit her sixth home run of the season in an 8-5 loss to Oregon State on Saturday. Nickles is hitting .264 with 20 RBIs and has been starting in center field for the Bruins.
Megan Kravec (Merced High/Notre Dame De Namur) – The former Bears catcher is hitting .304 for the Argonauts this season with three home runs and 14 RBIs.
McKenzie Schumacher (El Capitan High/Dominican University) – As a freshman, Schumacher has started all 44 games for the Penguins. The former Gaucho is hitting .308 and leads the team with 25 runs and 25 stolen bases in 33 attempts.
Ruby Quiralte (Merced High/Stanislaus State) – The junior is hitting .298 for the Warriors this season with four homers and 32 RBIs. Quiralte has started in all 47 games this season.