By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
Gia Rodoni has been at Baylor longer than most. The senior pitcher played her first season back in 2016.
Through her six years at Baylor, Rodoni has earned herself a reputation as one of the best pitchers in the nation. Her accolades, achievements and awards could probably fill Getterman Stadium, including 60 career wins going into this season and five career no-hitters.
But like many players during the pandemic-affected season, Rodoni struggled to find a groove early on. In the season opener, Rodoni gave up six earned runs to a talented No. 20 Arkansas team in Fayetteville, Ark. Rodoni’s up and down season continued in the Lone Star Classic, as she gave up 3 earned runs against Ole Miss and picked up her second loss of the season against UConn.
“She was hurting a little bit yesterday, not physically but emotionally,” Baylor softball coach Glenn Moore said about Rodoni’s performance against UConn. “As I told her yesterday, I challenged her a little bit, but I also said, ‘You don’t have all of your tools right now and not 100% by any stretch.’ But she’ll get there. We’ve got to be patient to a degree.”
Rodoni felt the pandemic also had something to do with her shaky start, as the team hadn’t played a full season since 2019. Despite this, Rodoni said she was just focused on finding a groove and controlling what she can.
“Definitely just still trying to figure out a groove, find a groove,” Rodoni said. “We’ve had a few games now, but it’s been a long time since we played a season, so just trying to get back in the swing of things. Just working on getting better each game and making improvements.”
Moore and Baylor’s patience and trust in Rodoni paid off, as she quickly found her groove during the last game of the Lone Star Invitational. When the Bears needed her the most, Rodoni came up big to help Baylor pick up their first ranked win of the season against No. 25 Mississippi State, and she hasn’t looked back since.
Against the potent Bulldog lineup, who had scored six runs in the first four innings, Rodoni guided the Bears to a 10-6 win, pitching flawlessly through the final three innings to pick up her second save of the season. Rodoni allowed only three hits and no runs while striking out three batters. Moore was happy to see his star pitcher return to the form she is capable of.
“I thought it was just huge for her to respond and be able to bring her out of the bullpen, give her an opportunity for redemption against a good lineup,” Moore said. “She was able to keep them off balance. I think she’s one of the top pitchers in the country.”
Despite pitching one of her best games of the season, Rodoni was quick to credit her team for the win, acknowledging that it was a group effort.
“Going against a team like Mississippi State, who has a powerful lineup like that and keeping it under control was kind of what we needed,” Rodoni said. “It was a good team-effort win overall.”
Rodoni and the Bears have been lights out since. Rodoni has pitched a complete game in her last two starts, only allowing two earned runs as the Bears have strung together a six-game winning streak. One of those starts came against No. 12 Louisiana, who have averaged 6.5 runs per game this season. Rodoni’s recent resurgence has provided a boost for the entire team.
“Very happy for Gia to have a total turnaround,” senior center fielder Nicky Dawson said. “She’s a great pitcher, and everybody knows that. To see her really perform and come back to herself was big for us.”
If Rodoni can keep her hot streak going from the mound, the sky is the limit for the Bears’ winning streak. Teammate and senior first baseman Goose McGlaun echoed the sentiment, saying Rodoni’s recent run will serve as a good foundation for the rest of the year.
“With me having seen her before this year and even early on, like my freshman and sophomore year before she got hurt, just seeing her, the competitor that she is, to go ahead and finish the weekend out like that was awesome,” McGlaun said. “Especially to kind of build her confidence up and build our confidence up behind her as a team going into the rest of the season.”
Rodoni and the Lady Bears will look to continue their hot streak in Arizona this weekend, starting with a 7 p.m. matchup against No. 9 Arizona State Thursday in Tempe, Ariz.