Riley Long hasn’t had an easy start to her softball career, but she’s certainly made the most out of all of her opportunities.
Long is a junior on the St. Hubert High School softball team, and every time she starts to get comfortable, things go haywire.
As a freshman, Long was a swing player, meaning she would be the starting pitcher for the junior varsity team, and then come up to varsity to help out in various ways. This was a great start, seeing time with the main club as a freshman, but that’s when things went crazy.
Last year, coronavirus spoiled the season.
This year, due to two separate outbreaks, the Bambies were forced to take brief hiatuses.
“This year was really good, but it was really tough at the start because we had all the COVID shutdowns,” said Long, who mostly played third base for Hubert. “It was hard. Then when we got back, it was really hard because we had to play a lot. We had six games in a week, and we didn’t have a lot of time to practice.
“It was hard for everyone, but having two shutdowns was really hard. I think we played really well, and we got better once we got together and were playing together. It was just hard having all those games in a row.”
Long and the Bambies did enjoy a good year. They made the Catholic League playoffs and went on to represent the PCL in the District 12 Class 6A championship, besting Central. That allowed them to qualify for the state playoffs, where they dropped a 12-0 verdict to Quakertown at Archbishop Ryan.
In that one, Long got an opportunity to pitch, and while it wasn’t the result she wanted, she’s happy she got the experience to throw in a big game.
“To me, that game felt a lot like a tournament game instead of a high school game,” said Long, who lives in Mayfair. “It was a good game for the seniors, they got to play in another game. We had really good seniors who always helped us.’
Long was a junior captain, but she admits she learned a lot from the seniors, Kylie Bielawski, Sierra Gozzi, Maddy Myers and starting pitcher and team leader Emily Murphy.
They were great mentors, but Long did a fine job of being a captain in her own right.
“On the field, she brings the ability to play so many different places, wherever I need her,” said Bambies coach Dan Milio. “She can hit anywhere in the lineup, but more it’s the leadership. Girls look up to her, she’s always at practice and going hard. She is always doing the right thing on and off the field. The way she conducts herself, great girl to build the program through.”
Next year, she will be the ace of the team.
This year, Murphy got the ball, but with her graduating, Long is expected to take over as the team’s starting pitcher.
She already has great stuff, and luckily for her, she has the perfect workout partner to hone her skills this summer.
When she’s not playing for her club team, she can grab her glove and go outside with her younger sister Delaney, who is the catcher at Franklin Towne Charter. She’s been Long’s personal catcher for as long as she can remember.
“We love to work out together, she’s a very good catcher, so it helps me a lot,” Long said. “We didn’t go to the same schools because I really wanted to go to Hubert’s and she really wanted to go to Franklin Towne. I love that I play in the Catholic League, I love the competition. She really loves her school, too. It worked out for both of us.
“My family is very supportive of both of us. And whenever I don’t have a game and she does, I’ll go to her game. And when I have a game and she isn’t playing, she’ll come to mine. We aren’t teammates, but we always support each other.”
This summer, Long is hoping she has some time to rest up and go on vacation. But she knows the bulk of her summer will be spent playing softball, and that’s by design.
“I’m a junior now, and next year I’ll be a senior, so I really have to figure out where I’m going to college,” said Long, who hopes to play beyond high school. “This is a big summer for me to keep getting better.
“I’m not sure where I’ll go. I always wanted to be a nurse and I still like that, but I’m also looking at other things. I like criminology and forensic science. This summer, I’m really going to look into colleges.”
Getting better on the field is another goal. Not only will that help her college prospects, but it will help the Bambies when they get back in action next spring.
“I have to get better at everything, especially my pitching,” Long said. “Even though I think I can compete with other teams, I want to get better. The team, we need to focus on keeping energy up. When we made mistakes, we stayed down. We have to work on that, and make sure we’re always confident.
“This year was a great year. I want next year to be even better.”