Baylor's Gia Rodoni Thriving After Long Road Back From Injury
Gia Rodoni felt the nerves before she sent in the pitch to Auburn’s Tyler King to open Baylor’s 2020 season. As the ball left her right hand, her nerves were matched by a feeling of achievement.
The fifth-year senior has accomplished a lot while at Baylor. She’s pitched at the Women’s College World Series, spun no-hitters and racked up several accolades. But this one pitch in Clearwater, Fla. meant just as much to her after a long road back from injury.
Rodoni sat out the 2019 season after undergoing a microscopic surgery to clean up tendinitis in her knee. Her recovery process took a lot longer than she expected and forced her into a medical redshirt year.
“It made me hungrier as a player, not taking softball for granted,” Rodoni told Softball America during a phone interview. “I was just so nervous and excited, I hadn’t seen a batter in so long...I knew I had put the work in to get back to this place where I’d be healthy for this season. I’m still excited for every game that we play and every opportunity I get to pitch again.”
Entering February’s Woo Pig Classic, Rodoni is the reigning Big 12 co-Pitcher of the Week after she threw her fifth career no-hitter against Tulsa. She’s also posted a 0.90 season earned run average and struck out 62 batters over 46.2 innings.
To longtime Baylor coach Glenn Moore, she’s been far ahead of schedule.
“She’s been phenomenal this year. She’s exceeding expectations this early,” Moore told Softball America during a phone interview. “We probably thought it’d take a couple of more weeks to get her where she is right now. It doesn’t look like she’s missed a beat with the layoff.”
Rodoni said she’s currently in the best shape of her college career. She feels stronger and it’s been nice to feel less discomfort compared to past years. As great as that’s been for Rodoni, the sitting back and watching she endured has made her a smarter pitcher. Last season, she was able to gain a lot from Baylor pitching coach Britni Newman while spending time with her in the dugout.
“I was able to learn from Coach Newman,” Rodoni said. “Sitting by her every game and picking her brain on why she calls certain pitches, why she coaches the way she does or what formed her as a coach and player. Learning about pitching other than throwing it but the reason behind it, seeing batters' tendencies and just becoming a smarter player overall.”
Rodoni easily could’ve been pessimistic about her situation. Instead, she made the best of it.
“We try to stress this with the ones that lose a season,” Moore said. “They have an opportunity to grow from a perspective that they would not have if they continued to play through that. They get to sit in on some of our coaches’ meetings. In (Rodoni's) case, she’s sitting right beside Coach Newman calling pitches.
“They grow the mental game and the understanding behind our philosophies a little bit better. I certainly think it can be a great benefit for them if they can recover from the injury to go back out with a stronger mental game.”
Rodoni’s goal last year was to make it her best season. Instead, her circumstances gave her a new mindset about how quickly the game can be taken away.
“I’m just making sure I do everything,” Rodoni said. “Not taking a rep off and doing the most to make sure my body is strong enough and healthy enough. And just appreciating it to give back to the game after it’s given me so much.”