Led by a dynamic duo of hall of fame sisters, The College of Wooster softball program boasted one of the premier pitching staffs within the NCAA Div. III Great Lakes Region in the early-to-mid 2000s. And for the Barones, Wooster softball truly was a family affair with Natalie, and later Ali, following Angie through the program.
While time management could perhaps best be described as a work in progress during her freshman year, Natalie Barone's superior all-around athletic skillset enabled her to star for two Wooster teams. Softball was her better sport, but Barone earned a starting role on the basketball team as a rookie, and twice led the team in steals. Come spring, led by Angie and Natalie, Wooster's pitching staff posted a 1.74 ERA, the best mark in program history. With a heavy mix of speeds and locations keeping the opposition off balance, Natalie led the team with a 1.45 ERA and fired a team-leading 110 2/3 innings en route to honorable mention all-North Coast Athletic Conference honors.
"It was rare to find a true two-sport athlete, and Natalie embraced being a top player at both basketball and softball," said Lori Schimmel, the College's head softball coach at the time. "These are probably the hardest of sport combinations as they overlap and never really gave time off to rest. This is where her work ethic paid off."
Thanks to "the guidance and support of (many)," Barone stuck with both sports as a sophomore. On the diamond, Angie and Natalie pitched every inning for the Scots, with the duo's combined 1.89 ERA ranking as the second-best in program history. Natalie's ERA – 1.35 – rated among the nation's elite, and she led the Scots with 124 innings.
Wooster's pitching success rested solely with Natalie as a junior, and the right-hander was tabbed as the NCAC Pitcher of the Year at season's end. Barone worked all but 5 1/3 innings over the team's final 29 games. Come conference play, Barone upped her game, and helped the Scots clinch a spot in the NCAC Tournament. Key to that was a doubleheader sweep at Ohio Wesleyan University on April 9, during which Barone toed the rubber for 17 innings in a pair of extra-inning games. In addition to her pitching success, Barone's .371 average (33-for-89) led the team.
"Natalie was very stoic in the circle," added Schimmel. "She showed little or no emotion. I have not come across many pitchers that were able to control their emotions so well. You never knew if we were winning or losing if you just looked at her. That is a rare trait."
Barone was poised for a big senior season in both sports, only to have it cut short 30 seconds into a basketball scrimmage when she tore her ACL. Despite missing out on playing, she was able to "still make the games enjoyable and fun" by "supporting my teammates from the sidelines and cheering on my sister, Ali," who at the time was a sophomore on the softball team.
Barone's 1.76 career ERA still ranks as the mark to beat in the program annals. Upon graduation, she was second all-time, only to Angie with 73 appearances, 60 complete games, 34 wins, 462 2/3 innings pitched, and 309 strikeouts.
A standout in the classroom, Barone earned a bachelor's in chemistry and went on to obtain an advanced degree in the field from the University of Akron. She's employed at Bridgestone America Tire Operations in Akron, Ohio, where she leads a team of material scientists. Barone's received multiple patents and awards for her work in raw material design and compound development, and was named to Rubber & Plastic News' "Top 40 Under 40 in the Rubber Industry" list in 2017.
Personally, Barone, and her husband, Jacob, reside in Canton, Ohio. The couple has four children: Alaina (9), Vincent (7), Vivian (4), and Nadia (3).