Nadia Ranieri narrates every pitch with her internal flip card.
And then makes a decision.
“While the pitcher is winding up, I say, ‘Yes, yes, yes’ in my head,” said Ranieri, a Riverside-Brookfield junior, “and as soon as I see it’s a ball, I go, ‘No.’”
That audible review seems to have Ranieri’s personal clock right on time.
Ranieri, in her third varsity season, is putting up extraordinary numbers. In 74 plate appearances entering the week, Ranieri is hitting .582 with a .671 on-base percentage and has scored 35 runs in 20 games to lead the 17-3 Bulldogs. She even has 14 RBIs, all while hitting leadoff. A true two-way threat, Ranieri is 11-3 with 100 strikeouts over 78 innings in the circle.
Ranieri was told at a young age that if a pitch is a strike, go for it. She doesn’t clutter her mind with too many thoughts, but there is that constant yes/no.
“Once the pitcher first starts her windup is when I first say, ‘Yes,’ to myself,” Ranieri said. “When she releases the ball, I put one more ‘yes’ in there.”
Ranieri has provided a resounding yes at R-B’s leadoff spot.
She hit .390 in 27 games last year, and started the season in the middle of the order. By the fourth game, Bulldogs coach Doug Schultz switched her to leadoff. Now she’s a constant on the bases ahead of Emily Noel, who is hitting .500 with 34 RBIs. Combining a keen eye with an uncanny ability to put bat on ball, Ranieri gets on base more than two-thirds of the time.
“Nadia really controls the outside of the plate well,” Schultz said. “She is able to, as a lefty hitter, cover the outside pitch and go the opposite way, which is a lot of her hits and huge for a lefty.”
Coincidentally, the outside pitch used to be Ranieri’s kryptonite.
“It used to be my least favorite pitch,” Ranieri said. “I’m going with the pitch and extending my arms a little more instead of rolling my hands over. My bat is in the zone longer and I’m seeing the ball better. That ‘yes’ mentality has helped me.”
It’s sparked the Bulldogs to quite a season.
Notably, they beat Oak Park-River Forest early in the season, and won at Bishop McNamara. Against IC Catholic Prep, R-B rallied from a 9-0 deficit for an 18-9 win. The Bulldogs also beat Lyons and Shepard in a round-robin, and beat Andrew.
“It’s been amazing,” Schultz said.
Ranieri was brought up in a baseball/softball family.
Her dad coaches, and all of her siblings have played. Her older sister, Alivia, played on R-B’s 2017 regional champs with Nadia, and collegiately at Augustana before thumb and labrum injuries forced her to quit. Nadia’s twin brother, Michael, plays for R-B’s baseball team. A cousin, Ryatt Kutt, is a pitcher at Illinois.
“We saw [Nadia] coming through the ranks,” Schultz said. “Her body type is perfect for softball. And we’ve known her work ethic from the beginning.”
In fact, everybody in Ranieri’s family has been a pitcher. So is Nadia, but a shoulder issue limited her in that capacity last year.
“I would warm up before every game, and it was horrible,” Ranieri said.
Now she’s back, throwing near 60 mph, commanding her rise ball, and mixing in new pitches including a changeup.
“They focused on me throwing more than just the fastball,” Ranieri said.
Hitting, pitching or anywhere in between, Ranieri points the Bulldogs forward.
“She is awesome in so many ways,” Schultz said. “Not just her work ethic, but she is the kid that keeps the energy going with this group. If it’s being silly or doing crazy things, she keeps us jelling the right way.”