After crafting two masterpieces at Getterman Stadium, Gia Rodoni’s cell phone blew up all weekend.
The first explosion of texts and calls came after she threw her first no-hitter against Kent State in the Baylor softball team’s NCAA tournament opener last Friday.
The next wave came two days later when the sophomore right-hander used her devastating changeup to seal her second no-hitter as the Lady Bears clinched the regional title with a 1-0 win over James Madison.
In the stands, her parents and older brother, Tazz, were thrilled to witness Rodoni become the first pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters in the NCAA tournament since North Carolina’s Danielle Spaulding in 2010.
“My father and I were most concerned with Gia getting the W,” said Tazz, a Baylor senior pre-med major. “We were pensively watching, keeping an eye on her. We had faith in her. You don’t see that every often.”
Rodoni became the first Baylor pitcher in school history to throw no-hitters in back to back starts. She also made it clear that the No. 15 national seed Lady Bears have two aces heading into the Super Regional against No. 2 Arizona beginning Friday in Tucson.
Though Baylor coach Glenn Moore plans to start senior Kelsee Selman in the opener, Rodoni will certainly play a major role as the best-of-three series unfolds.
“Gia was phenomenal over the weekend,” said Baylor pitching coach Britni Sneed Newman. “One thing I told her was this is what you prepare for, this is why you do what you do early in the season. This is why you face tough competition. She was ready and she performed.”
Rodoni has pitched well all season as she’s built a 17-2 record with a 1.57 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 138 innings in 30 games. But she’s been at her best down the stretch, culminating in her remarkable weekend at the Waco regional.
Though Rodoni hasn’t spent a lot of time dwelling on the two no-hitters, she understands her feat will be remembered as long as Baylor plays softball.
“It’s something that’s never happened to me, so I think it’s pretty cool,” Rodoni said. “I really can’t tell you why it came together. I was so confident in my defense. That was what kept me going the whole weekend. I didn’t have to be perfect every pitch. I knew they were going to be there to make the plays, so it was relaxing knowing that.”
The Baylor coaching staff is impressed that Rodoni has pitched at such a high level this year after making her debut more than a month into her freshman year. Moore had planned to redshirt her in 2016, but saw that the pitching staff needed more depth behind ace Heather Stearns.
Rodoni made her debut on March 20, 2016 against Central Florida as she posted a pair of strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings to pick up a save. She finished last season with a 6-1 record and a 3.35 ERA in 37 2/3 innings.
“We weren’t performing with the No. 2 (pitcher) to the level we needed to advance, and that was our best chance,” Moore said. “It’s a tough decision because you’re trading a year for a third of the year. But she threw well once she got the rust knocked off.”
Once the Lady Bears are into the season, Moore lets the player decide whether to pull the redshirt. But Rodoni wanted to help the team any way she could. She picked up a win in last year’s regional in Eugene, as she allowed three hits and no earned runs in five innings in an 11-2 win over Long Beach State that sent the Lady Bears to the championship game where they lost to Oregon.
“It was crazy when coach told me I was going to start the next game (against Long Beach State) because I hadn’t expected it at the start of the regional,” Rodoni said. “It helped me coming into this year’s regional having played in last year’s regional. It gave me confidence these are the best teams in the country, and it’s a good opportunity to see what I can do.”
Growing up in an athletic family in Central California, Rodoni has always been very competitive. Her father, Brian Rodoni, played center for the BYU football team from 1983-87. Her mother, Michelle, was a diver at Long Beach State.
Her older brother, Tazz, played high school baseball, and her younger brother, Thor, is a walk-on long snapper for the Baylor football team.
“We’re all high intensity individuals,” Tazz said. “My father always said Gia was blessed with talent, and that’s been evident since she was a young girl. We’re a close family and we talk to each quite a bit. I don’t think it’s uncommon that all three of us are at Baylor because we’ve always gone to the same schools, and it’s like another step to go here.”
Gia was the first member of the Rodoni family to decide to make the leap from California to Baylor when she verbally committed to the softball program in 2013. Tazz received academic scholarships and became the first member of the family to enroll at Baylor in 2014, followed by Gia in 2015 and Thor in 2016.
Both Tazz and Thor attend Gia’s softball games whenever they can.
“My older brother comes all the time when he has free time and my younger brother comes when he doesn’t have football practice,” Gia said. “It’s so nice. My first year not knowing people, it was nice having my older brother to guide me and hang out with me when I was bored. My younger brother and I have mutual friends with other athletes.”
Rodoni could have easily stayed on the West coast to play college softball after she was recruited by Washington, Fresno State and Long Beach State. But she felt Baylor was where she belonged from the first time she visited campus.
“It’s just Baylor’s beauty and Christian atmosphere, and the coaches are awesome as well,” Rodoni said. “It felt right when I came here. As soon as I stepped on campus I knew this is where I want to go.”
Rodoni starred at Pancheco High School in Los Banos, Calif., and enchanced her skills by playing teams from all over the country with the California Grapettes club.
“I’ve known her since travel ball, she was younger than me,” said Baylor senior second baseman Ari Hawkins. “She was fierce on the mound and she had that composure of not letting anything get to her. That has stuck with her the whole time. Her competitiveness and drive and tendency to get things done is great.”
With Selman wrapping up her final season, Rodoni is set to become Baylor’s No. 1 pitcher next season. She would love to cap her sophomore season by winning the Super Regional and helping Baylor reach the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2014.
“We know it’s so close,” Rodoni said. “It only takes two wins and we’re there. We had a great weekend and we want to keep feeding off what we did and keep improving from here. We know Arizona is a phenomenal team, so we have to keep being on our game.”