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Riley leads on field, in classroom at Salve Regina University

Special to the Union Leader

June 15. 2018 3:21AM
Barrington's Amanda Riley emerged as a top player in her junior season for Salve Regina University this spring. (COURTESY PAUL GUSMANO)

NEWPORT, R.I. — The fact that Amanda Riley received Salve Regina University’s Junior Class Award speaks volumes about the Barrington resident who’s a shortstop on the school’s softball team.

The award is presented to the outstanding female student-athlete in the Class of 2019 who has “documented achievement in her sport, national or conference accomplishments and recognition, leadership ability, involvement in helping others on her team or the program at large, involvement in community service, academic achievement and citizenship.”

“The first word that comes to my mind is proud,” Salve coach Jannelle Iaquinto said. “She truly loves the game and loves being part of the Salve community. She comes from a great family and is the essence of a team leader in terms of how she carries herself and interacts with teammates and administrators.

“She works tremendously hard. She’s a kid that doesn’t necessarily stand out but people recognize her for what she is. This is perhaps the most impressive accomplishment she’s achieved this year.”

That’s noteworthy considering Riley earned All-Commonwealth Coast Conference honors for a third consecutive year; was nominated for CoSIDA Academic All-America consideration; and for the second straight year was an All-CCC Academic honoree.

On the softball field, Riley, a co-captain, led the Seahawks with a .432 batting average (which ranked second in the conference) and led the CCC in RBIs (43) plus stolen bases (12).

As a freshman, Riley was called on to start at shortstop during Salve’s run to the CCC championship and subsequent appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament when the starting shortstop was injured.

“All” Riley did was get voted to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team.

Riley started for Coe-Brown Northwood Academy but was a utility player her first two years at Salve before starting at shortstop in 2018.

“I wasn’t frustrated coming into college because you’re playing with the best girls,” Riley said. “I wasn’t expecting to play much my freshman year. I was just there to learn and be like a sponge. In my head, I felt there might be an opportunity.

“I practiced like I was going to play but I also had in mind the likelihood of my playing was very low. But I felt if there was I moment where I would perform I would have to perform as best as I could.”

Iaquinto was named Salve’s head coach after Riley’s freshman year. It didn’t take her long to find out Riley was a hidden gem.

“Amanda served a utility role as a sophomore,” said Iaquinto. “By the time we got to the CCC Tournament and the NCAAs, she was hitting over .400 and we put her in the outfield for both because we needed her bat in the lineup. We had a senior shortstop that played well. But we needed to find a place for Amanda. Last season, she earned her rightful place at shortstop.

“She has an incredible knowledge of the game — a high softball IQ. She was a huge factor for us in our offensive lineup. I’m not surprised Amanda accomplished what she did as a freshman. She’s won throughout her career and has that winning culture built into her.”

Riley knows what having a “high softball IQ” entails.

“First knowing your team, knowing the situation and the other team plus reading the play and expecting what’s to come,” she said. “On defense if the ball is hit to me, where am I going and how fast is the girl at the plate? Obviously, knowing the pitcher, knowing who’s behind you in the lineup and putting yourself in the best position possible.

“It’s taken me a long time to work on it but as you develop as a player your softball IQ will develop even more.”

Riley has a career batting average of .369. And in 301 at-bats, she has fanned only 29 times, which indicates she has a good knowledge of the strike zone.

“It’s something I’ve developed over time,” Riley said. “Even as a kid I hated striking out. That rattles me as a player. I would rather pop out a thousand times instead of striking out. At least with a popup someone can move up.

“It can be so defeating for the team and yourself. It’s a horrible feeling.”

Riley is majoring in psychology at a university with high academic standards.

“A lot of it comes down to discipline,” Riley said of her ability to maintain a high GPA and excel in softball. “Typically I’m pretty hard on myself. I think education will get me to where I need to be. I get my discipline from sports I played as a kid. That’s enabled me to maintain a high academic standard.

“If I wasn’t a student-athlete, I don’t know if that would be the case. The discipline I’ve been taught has enabled me to go a long way.”