DOWNERS GROVE – Dale Ryndak always wanted to follow in her older sister Kendall's footsteps.
The recent Downers Grove North graduate did exactly that, in more ways than one.
"It started with my sister. I just kind of wanted to do what she did," Dale Ryndak said. "She was a pitcher, so I needed to be a pitcher because she was a pitcher. I actually started off hating pitching, but it's my favorite thing to do now. It comes so easy to me."
What comes easy for Ryndak made life hard on opponents of North's softball team. An ace pitcher and dangerous hitter for the Trojans, she not only followed in her sister's footsteps on the field but off it as well. Kendall Ryndak was the 2011 all-area softball MVP; Dale is the 2014 MVP.
Making Ryndak's senior season all the more impressive is that it came after she missed nearly all of her junior campaign after tearing her ACL and meniscus in the first game of the 2013 season. She put up eye-popping numbers this year thanks to her tireless work effort on a daily basis.
"Most people see her competing in games, but when you see her everyday in practice you can tell how she's able to separate herself from other players," North head coach Eric Landschoot said. "The way she'd go about taking at-bats in practice or doing long toss to prepare for a game, that's how she set herself apart."
As a freshman, Ryndak was a solid player who was an all-area team member. She improved as a sophomore and took things to a new level this spring, especially as a pitcher.
"I think my overall mental game and how I approach hitters really changed from my freshman year to now," she said. "Since freshman year I've added a couple off-speed pitches, but I think my overall approach to each batter has changed and that's what made me better."
Inside the circle this season, Ryndak was nearly unhittable. She compiled a 22-2 record with a 0.52 ERA, and she notched 219 strikeouts while walking only 11 batters in 159 innings pitched. Among the 17 shutouts she tossed were one perfect game and one no-hitter.
She also had stellar production in the batter's box (.446 batting average, 10 home runs, 41 RBIs), and the combination of her pitching and hitting prowess helped her earn a big honor – 2014 Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year.
"I got a memo and was notified that I was kind of up for it, but getting it was such an honor," she said. "It's a dream come true. Every girl in softball wants that award, and I can't say how thankful I am to get that."
The day Ryndak won the award was the same day the Trojans faced the Downers Grove South in a sectional semifinal game.
"Before we left for the game and she got the award it was, 'Thank you. I just want to win today,' and she really did fell that way," Landschoot said. "Her level of competitiveness and her desire to win was something else."
About Dale Ryndak
Jersey: No. 9
College: Arizona State