Gia Rodoni, a standout NCAA Division I-bound pitcher last season for the Central Catholic softball team, has transferred to Pacheco High in Los Banos.
The Western Athletic Conference’s Most Valuable Pitcher last year, Rodoni lives in Los Banos, where her father, Brian Rodoni, is an offensive line coach for the Panthers.
“It wasn’t that difficult (to make the decision),” said Rodoni, a junior. “I’ve been wanting to come here for a while, because my dad’s a football coach here, so I’ve been at all their games, and been a part of them already, so it’s nice.
“He influences me so much to do better in school and sports. He motivates me. He has always been there for me. I’m just always thankful for him.”
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Rodoni, who has committed to Baylor University in Texas, had a 0.34 earned run average in 15 appearances for Central in 2013.
Because there’s not a family move involved, Rodoni will sit on the bench during the CIF’s mandated sit-out period, and will first be eligible to play for the Panthers on April 7. Pacheco’s first game after that is April 14, a home game against Central Catholic. She’ll play for Pacheco for the second half of league.
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s going to make me hungrier for when I do get to come back,” Rodoni said. “The team, they should already be ready for me to come back, so I’m looking forward to them being ready. I’m looking to go 6-0 when I come back in, the last part of the season, and go to the playoffs.”
But while she’s out, Pacheco coach Charlie Pikas will work to keep her in game condition.
“We’re going to have her throw to our hitters at least, so she’s working batters, and that’s going to give her the game-type situations that she won’t get until then,” Pikas said. “She’ll practice every day like everybody else. It’s almost like having somebody rehabbing from injury. You just hope that with the practice time and all the work, when she does come back, they’re as sharp as they need to be.”
Technically speaking, Rodoni is the first Division-I college commit in any sport to roam the fields of Pacheco, which opened in 2010. She committed to Baylor after a campus visit last summer, but she said she’s been on the school’s radar since a travel-team tournament in Los Angeles her eighth-grade year.
Rodoni plays for the California Grapettes, a travel team in Stockton. The Grapettes website lists four other players on the 18U Gold team who are verbally committed to D-1 universities – Kindra Hackbarth of Oakdale (Notre Dame), Maddi Hackbarth of Oakdale (Notre Dame), Chelsey Holley of Anderson High (UC Riverside) and Kobie Pettis of Argonaut (California).
“I think she’d probably agree with me that it’s 99 percent what happened with the Grapettes organization, and then her work on her own,” Pikas said. “Getting herself to the right camps and getting herself seen. She’s got a plethora of things that she’s gone to on her own that she could tell you about that helped with the recruiting process.”
Rodoni’s been no slouch for Central, either – she pitched in 16 games her freshman year, compiling a 6-6 record with a 1.70 ERA over 94.2 innings, then put together a 9-3 record with a 0.34 ERA in 82 innings pitched last year, helping the Raiders to a 12-0 sweep of WAC play. In those 82 innings, the sophomore allowed four earned runs.
Pacheco finished at the bottom of the league standings at 2-10 last year, but graduated only one everyday starter (first baseman Tracey Alvarez). The Panthers have three other players with pitching experience in Shyanne Vargas, Jen Eagleton and Yadira Castillo. Perhaps the biggest question mark once Rodoni steps on the field will be her catcher, junior Yessenia Castillo.
“One of the keys is going to be Yessenia being able to catch her. This could be a great experience for her,” Pikas said. “She doesn’t play high-level club ball, so nobody really knows her outside of Los Banos, and people keep asking me, ‘Sure, but do you have anybody who can catch her?’ ”