Bryanna Rivas may be small in stature but that didn’t stop her from putting up huge numbers in the pitcher’s circle last season.
The Oberlin junior, who is 5-foot tall, went 15-12 with a 1.78 ERA and a Lorain County-leading 265 strikeouts.
For those without calculators, that’s 53 strikeouts per foot.
“People kind of underestimate her because of her size, but I’ve never coached somebody who works harder,” Phoenix coach Josie Martin said. “We practice and then her mom is sending me pictures of her hitting in the front yard or pitching after practice … she’s just very driven.”
Driven to the point where the jaw-dropping strikeouts total wasn’t satisfying enough.
“I’m hoping to get a lot more strikeouts this year,” Rivas said. “Well, maybe not a lot more, but at least 270.”
The big sophomore numbers landed her on the All-Lorain County first team and the All-Ohio Division III second team, and she was named the county’s Division III-IV pitcher of the year. She also committed to play for Malone University during the offseason.
It was a great year for an athlete who had spent many of them perfecting her craft.
Rivas started playing T-ball when she was just 5, and even though there is no pitching on that level, it’s where the seed was first planted.
“When I was in T-ball my coaches said I had a good arm, so when I got into farm my coach told me I should pitch,” Rivas said of her early OGSO years. “From there I just kept evolving.”
A couple years later Rivas began taking pitching lessons from Amie Leffew, then a few years more she began playing for the Ohio Outlaws fastpitch travel organization.
“They made me into the player I am today,” Riva said. “They really pushed me hard.”
Rivas was gaining momentum and notoriety.
“I heard about her coming up through middle school,” Martin said. “She came around to some of the summer ball games and I got to know her. I teach at the high school, too, so I had her in the classroom her freshman year. Hands down the hardest-working athlete that I’ve coached in my nine years at Oberlin.”
The work ethic has led her to overachieve, not just by trying to earn success while pitching but in expanding the ways to get the job done.
“Usually pitchers only use two or three (pitches) because they only perfect three, but I basically perfected all of them,” Rivas said. “I don’t want to sound conceited, but I just wanted to learn all six.”
Rivas said her curveball, riseball and changeup are generally the most consistent, but she loves trying to mix in everything during a game.
“Bry likes to use her whole arsenal of pitches,” Martin said. “She’s good at keeping batters on their toes. Even if a certain pitch is working during a game, she still wants to use other pitches. She’s well-rounded and very resilient in the circle.”
But opposing teams don’t just have to worry about Rivas hurting them with her arm. She’s accomplished with a bat in her hands, too.
“She had the second-highest batting average on the team, she had the second-most RBIs, she had the most runs scored,” Martin said. “It’s not just the pitching that she brings to the table. It’s the base-running, the hitting and the knowledge of the game. She’s also a great teammate and a leader, and the girls respect her and look up to her.”
Rivas said she works on her hitting with instructor Bill Lilley, whose daughter Jenna helped North Canton Hoover win four Division I state titles and is the starting third baseman for the Oregon Ducks, and she makes time for offense daily.
“I split my time in the day so that I can fit in everything that I can,” she said. “I’ll do pitching for an hour or two, then after that I’ll work on batting or go to a lesson. I do whatever I can to get better.
“I’d say I like pitching more. I love hitting, but pitching’s my thing. So I’d rather be known as a great pitcher than a big hitter.”
Great and big — two adjectives that perfectly describe the diminutive star’s performance on the softball diamond.