Lefty Riley uses rainout as rest as CHS-Houlka Game 1 moved to Monday

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Here you may find the one person who isn’t all that miffed that rain has put the Cathedral-Houlka Class 1A state championship on hold.

Left-hander Te Riley didn’t have much gas to give his last time out on the mound, and he took most of the week off from throwing to get ready for what was supposed to be Game 1 today at Chester Willis Field.

Instead the rain Thursday and Friday pushed it back to 3 p.m. Monday. To hard-throwing Riley, that may be all the better.

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&uot;Coach told me not to throw this week. I threw in the bullpen, and it felt really good,&uot; said Riley, who went four innings in the South State opener against Greenville St. Joe and gave up five runs and four walks. &uot;It wasn’t a big deal &045; just a matter of resting up. I had pitched a lot of baseball that week, and I just couldn’t go the rest of the game.&uot;

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the team’s No. 1 starter didn’t have any pain to report. Riley had thrown four innings in that Game 1, a complete game three days earlier on May 4 against Mize, a complete game April 30 and a number of innings during that opening-round playoff tournament against Union.

The work may have merely caught up with him.

&uot;He should be well-rested by now &045; it’s been over a week,&uot; Cathedral head coach Craig Beesley said. &uot;When we play (Monday), it’ll be nine days. He threw a lot of curveballs in that first-round game against Union. That will wear on you more than the fastball will sometimes. I could tell (against St. Joe) warming up. He didn’t have the normal velocity on his fastball or his curve.&uot;

Riley struggled in the early innings in that game and never could get into a rhythm in the third or fourth &045; a pattern he made routine early in the season. Give credit to the Irish for making contact and not striking out, but Riley didn’t have his best stuff.

Part of it may be the simple fact that he’s pitching seven innings for a complete game instead of five. The Green Wave rolled through its division season with 10-run-rule outcomes that often went five innings or less, and now the competition is getting better.

And two innings can make a huge difference.

&uot;I pitched two games &045; a five-inning game against Union and then came back and pitched a seven-inning against Mize,&uot; Riley said. &uot;It was the first seven-inning game I had pitched in a while. It’s a big difference. It’s harder to stay focused and keep your composure.&uot;

The week off has been beneficial for Riley and No. 2 starter Corey Walker, who got the series-clinching win on Monday at Greenville to put the Green Wave in the state championship for the first time since 1997.

Monday’s game will be another big one for the left-hander, and Walker will get the start in Game 2 Tuesday at Pontotoc.

&uot;With the weather being like this, we didn’t get on the field this week,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;He got in the bullpen, and him and Corey both threw. We were hoping we could play (today). I felt like Te was well-rested, and we could come back with Corey. Now we’ve got to go back to back, but that could change by next week.&uot;

It’s up to Beesley to find out what works against the Houlka hitters for the series. If Riley can get the fastball and curveball working well, he can be tough to hit. But reports so far indicate the Wildcats could be hit-or-miss at the plate.

&uot;The coach at Ingomar said his No. 1 threw about 85, and he held them to a one-hitter,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;I think Te and Corey are close to that. With our pitching matching up against their hitting, I feel confident good about that. From what I’ve got from everybody, they do strike out a lot. They will hit the ball hard, but they will have a lot of strikeouts. They’re up there more to have a big inning than to manufacture runs.&uot;