Austin Riley still has another baseball season left to play at Tahlequah High School. But the 2014 campaign will be different than any of the previous three.
When the Tigers start their season in March, Riley will already have his college destination decided upon, allowing him to avoid distractions and just play baseball.
“It takes a bunch of pressure off,” said Riley, who recently signed with Oklahoma Wesleyan University. “But at the same time, I know I still have to go have a good year for my team.”
And no doubt that Tahlequah will be counting on Riley. In any given game during the 2014 campaign, Riley could log time at pitcher, catcher or anywhere in the infield.
His versatility will be a huge plus, Tahlequah coach Nick Zodrow said.
“He’s a guy that can play a bunch of positions,” Zodrow said. “He will even have to do some catching for us this year. He’s also capable of playing in the middle of the infield. He’s just solid defensively.”
Riley — who had a .267 batting average with 20 runs scored and 14 runs batted in as a junior in 2013 — will be one of the on-field leaders for the Tigers during 2014 season. With Riley and Houston Glad leading the charge, Tahlequah will look to improve upon its 13-21 record.
But Zodrow said Riley’s leadership will be more behind the scenes.
“He shows up every day and works hard,” Zodrow said. “He’s not a vocal leader, but he shows up and does what he’s asked to do.”
His work ethic and versatility made it an easy choice for OWU to pursue Riley.
“I’m really excited to be going to Oklahoma Wesleyan,” said Riley, who said he was also fielding interest from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Central Oklahoma. It’s a great school and a really good program. I was recruited as a catcher but will probably play middle infield, also.”
And if his high school track record is any indication, Riley will take over and do just fine at either second base or shortstop.