One by one Shelby Reali’s coaches and parents took center stage to speak to a vast crowd of friends and youth softball players at Rainbow Fields in Riverbank on April 4.
Their messages covered their own personal experiences watching the Oakdale High senior softball ace develop her skills to include new pitches, better mechanics and sheer determination.
When the OHS standout was given a chance to speak to the crowd on her own behalf, she offered simple advice that will push her career to the next level in 2013.
“Don’t give up.”
Reali’s incredible progression from 2011 to 2012 landed her a spot as the primary pitcher for Oakdale’s prep varsity softball team, and did enough to garner attention from Notre Dame De Namur University Belmont.
The Division II NCAA school offered Reali a partial scholarship, which she accepted via a letter of commitment on April 4.
Reali will join the Argonauts for a 2013 season that expects to represent a serious chance for Reali to see time on the mound as a true freshman. The Argonauts are 18-25 on the current season with a pitching staff led by senior Sammy McConvey (1.9 ERA in 144 innings pitched). McConvey and two other juniors represent the entire Notre Dame pitching staff, leaving room from Reali to develop under their tutelage next year and step into her own limelight soon after.
It’s similar to the situation Reali was faced with behind longtime Oakdale ace and current Texas Southern University pitcher Brianna Parker, who smashed her first college grand slam on April 13 and is making her own mark at the college level.
When Parker departed via graduation last year, Reali hit the travel ball season with vigor, established a good change-up and sharpened her method of pitching underhand before the prep season began this spring.
Her improvements played a big role in Oakdale’s 16-1-1 start to the season and undefeated stanza in the first half of Valley Oak League play.
“She has definitely stepped it up,” Oakdale coach Larry Loger said. “She knew when (Parker) graduated she had a chance to be our No. 1 and stepped right in there as a senior and has done a great job.”
Reali sports a sterling 0.64 ERA across 93 innings with 163 batters downed via strikes. It’s a big change from the lanky junior who saw limited production and occasional glimpses of success in 2011.
“I had to work really hard to get where I am,” Reali said. “Last year I learned a lot form Brianna and how she held us together by being the No. 1. I tried to follow in her footsteps.”
Reali said she likes the small campus and close-knit lifestyle Notre Dame offers. When the school made a recent offer, she jumped at the opportunity.
“It’s a perfect fit for me,” Reali said. “I loved everything about the school and I’m so excited to go to college. I love Oakdale High but I am ready to play at the next level and further enhance my skills.
“I know I have the support of my coaches behind me and they believe in me.”