By TREY WILLIAMS
David Crockett’s softball team will enter the 2021 season with Hope. And in 2022, that’ll be the case for Carolina University.
Pioneers senior Riley Hope signed with the Winston-Salem school last week.
The signing capped a roller-coaster of a year that began with hitting a home run in her first at-bat of her junior season against Volunteer. Unfortunately, that was the only game Crockett would play in 2020 due to COVID-19.
But Hope eventually got back in the swing of things with her travel team, the Tennessee Hype, which is where Carolina Assistant Coach Miles Warfford spotted her playing shortstop. Next thing you know, Hope was intent on playing for the NCCAA program.
“Coach Warfford made me feel welcome from the start,” Hope said. “I got to meet quite a few of the players and loved their energy and felt like I would fit in well and help their program. … I had other offers, but Carolina really stood out to me and felt like a home.”
Crockett Coach Carla Weems is excited about Hope’s senior season, as was the case concerning her junior season.
“Riley hit that home run in our first game,” Weems said. “I was really looking forward to last season.”
Hope has played a variety of positions at Crockett. Weems sees her future at the next level in the middle infield.
“She’s probably going to move from third to shortstop,” Weems said. “She’s doing a really good job right now at shortstop. She moves well and she’s one that will dive after the ball and is not afraid to get hurt going after it. …
“She has a great arm. Her first year, she played left (field) for me just because she was such a great athlete. But I had Reagan (Miller) and Sydney (Fox) and all of them that year. Riley did a good job out there for me and she’d never played outfield.”
Hope is a two-time All-Big Seven Conference and All-District 1-AAA selection. She’s hitting .376 during her career with 12 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .931 fielding percentage.
And she had a good offseason, as has always been the case.
“She’s a real go-getter that works hard,” Weems said. “She’s always working extra and puts a lot of effort in time into it. Riley’s swing looks really good right now.”
Hope is one of four seniors who’ve been playing since their freshmen seasons for the Pioneers. Hope fondly recalls winning the district that season, and is optimistic about a triumphant swan song.
“I’m very confident that we can win the conference with our strength at the plate and our speed in the field,” Hope said. “We may be small, but we have a lot of girls with experience and can make quick, smart decisions.”
Hope, whose favorite memory with the Pioneers thus far includes a trip to Disney, gave thanks to many for the opportunity she’s received.
“First and foremost, God,” Hope said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere without His guidance. And (thanks to) my parents, family, coaches and friends for pushing me, as well as their love and support.”
Ultimately, Hope felt like Carolina was destiny calling to cap a trying year.
“There were a few big showcases that I missed out on (due to COVID-19),” she said, “but I’m confident that Carolina is the place for me.”