Green sweep: Wave’s Riley, Beesley earn player, coach honors

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 6, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; There was Te Riley on the bottom of the dog pile smiling like a 4-year-old. He felt the weight of several of his teammates on his back, but at that point he didn’t care.

Finally.

When he went nuts along with other members of the Cathedral Green Wave following its state championship win, the excitement wasn’t just for this year’s title and going out as a winner &045; it was for all those close calls of years ago.

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Not just last year or the year prior, either. For about as long as he can remember, Riley and several of his teammates were baseball’s version of Susan Lucci &045; they never knew what it was like to win the big one.

&uot;What makes it so much more special is we’ve always been the group that has fallen short all of our lives &045; from little league until now,&uot; Riley said. &uot;To fall short all those years and win it the last year we were together, that’s what makes it so much better.

&uot;We’re talking Dixie Youth. When I was 12, we fell one game short of the state championship. When they were 10, they fell one game short of state.&uot;

Riley had a big part in that Cathedral success this year on the mound and at the plate as the Wave won its third state championship and first since 1995. The Copiah-Lincoln Community College signee finished among the team leaders in a number of offensive categories while serving as the No. 1 starter and one of the best pitchers in the Miss-Lou.

Riley is the 2004 All-Metro Player of the Year, and head coach Craig Beesley is the Coach of the Year.

&uot;We like everything about Te Riley,&uot; Co-Lin head coach Keith Case said. &uot;I like the way he plays the game. He’s got great feet and hands over at first base, and he’s a guy who has a chance to be a dual player. He’s a left-hander who can do some good things for you. We’re really, really excited about having him.&uot;

Riley hit fourth in a power-packed lineup that wreaked havoc on everyone else in Class 1A. Riley was third on the team in batting average at .402 while finishing with 10 doubles, two triples, 33 runs batted in, 36 runs scored and a .518 on-base percentage.

He went homerless for the season, but he was always good for putting the ball in play &045; he struck out a team-low five times this season, none of which were looking.

&uot;He’s someone you know will put the ball in play and hit it hard,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;He’s a good hitter and has a good eye for the ball. He didn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches. It’s always good to see him coming up there when we have people on base. Te’s more of a gap hitter. For two years he didn’t hit a home run, but he a lot to the wall.&uot;

But give some of the credit to the senior-based lineup he hit in this season. The infield was packed with solid hitters like Wyler Murray, Garrett Jones and Michael Blain with big slugger Jeremy Davis hitting in front of Riley in the No. 3 hole.

A dangerous fastball-hitting club, the Green Wave got going after a slow start to the season and became a club that made habit of posting double-digit totals in runs and ending games before the seventh inning.

&uot;We knew going into the year we had a chance to win state,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;I think the kids kind of put a little too much pressure on themselves (early) trying too hard. But hitting is contagious, and we started hitting. Everybody followed in behind them. We started off 2-2, and we didn’t lose another game until the last Saturday of the season.&uot;

The Green Wave lost two games early in the season to Class 4A Brookhaven and Class 5A Gulfport and didn’t lose again until a 10-0 loss to Brookhaven when Brooks Hall had the team’s number again by throwing a no-hitter.

While Beesley points to a win over rival St. Aloysius as a turning point of sorts, the second loss to Ole Brook may have been just as significant. For a team that did to its opponents what Barry Bonds would do to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the no-hit loss was quite humbling.

&uot;Our pitching was there from Day 1,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;We did a good job on the mound all year.&uot;

That was due in large to Riley, who featured an explosive fastball and a curveball that just tied batters in knots. He teamed up with right-handed sophomore Corey Walker as quite a formidable 1-2 punch, one of the best in Class 1A.

And it got tougher for the opposition as the season went on. The knock on Riley last year was he would get in trouble early before settling down, but he overcame that as this season progressed.

He finished with a 10-3 record with a 3.07 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 73 innings pitched.

&uot;It was more getting myself focused and my mind to where it should be,&uot; Riley said. &uot;This year if I started to lose it, I’d make myself make myself throw a strike and make myself get out of it instead of giving up the runs that were going to given up.&uot;

The presence on the mound impressed Case enough to consider using him at both positions, although that’s not something the Wolves make habit of. Case used Franklin County product Cole Zumbro in that role this season and admitted he won’t shy away fro it if necessary.

But Riley has the skills at first base to play at Co-Lin and maybe somewhere else after his two years are up.

&uot;I look at it like every year for me is like a stepping stone,&uot; Riley said. &uot;I’m trying to make myself a better player as a whole. Hopefully after two years at Co-Lin I can step up higher, maybe even a Division I school or a four-year college or even a Division II. Who knows?&uot;