Riley is just beginning to scratch the surface

Riley is just beginning to scratch the surface
April 07
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Entering the first week of April, Chyna Riley of the Rams led the team in hits and runs scored.



For Chyna Riley, there’s no such thing as hitting a routine ground ball. That’s because she’s as swift as they come in jetting from home plate to first base.

Riley, a utility player on Winston-Salem State’s softball team, is a headache for opposing infielders. Speed allows her to beat out more than her share of infield hits. When Riley hits a grounder, it’s not unusual for opposing infielders to rush their throws. Sometimes they throw the ball away. At other times, inaccurate tosses pull the first baseman off the bag.

In either case, Riley, a slap hitter who bats from the left side, reaches base safely, which frequently leads to Rams scoring opportunities. “Teams know that I have speed,” said Riley, who majors in exercise science and minors in sports medicine. “If I hit a ground ball, they know they have to be fast at getting the ball out. If they don’t, they know I’m going to beat the throw.”

Riley, a junior and three-year starter, was All-CIAA as a utility player a year ago. This season, she’s continuing her all-star level of play for WSSU, which had a four-game win streak prior to Wednesday’s road game against Barton College. Riley was hitting .289 with 14 RBIs and she leads the team in hits (22) and runs scored (22).

“There’s no question that Chyna’s speed helps her get on base,” said Winston-Salem State coach LaTaya Hilliard-Gray. “The main thing we’re working on right now is helping her develop consistency.”

Speed, however, isn’t the only major positive that makes Riley a valued contributor. She’s also the Rams No. 2 pitcher. In 13 starts, Riley has a 7-4 record with a 3.24 ERA. When she’s not handling pitching chores, she splits time between second base and the outfield.

A key factor behind Riley’s development as an offensive threat is the change she made three years ago as a freshman. Hilliard-Gray asked her to switch to hitting from the left side to take full advantage of her speed on the base paths. It wasn’t the smoothest of transitions to make, but during the course of the season, Riley emerged as an effective “slapper,” who excels at hitting balls up the middle and to the opposite field.

“At first it was a little shaky because I wasn’t used to it,” said Riley. “But Coach Gray pushed me every single day. The other ‘slappers’ on the team really worked with me. So, I got comfortable and picked things up pretty quickly. When I listen to what Coach Gray tells me and use the technique, it always works.”

Given Riley’s ability to get on base, it comes as no surprise that Hilliard-Gray wants her to become more of a base stealing threat. Up to this point in this season, Riley hasn’t been given the green light very often (two steals in four attempts). That’s subject to change as the season progresses.

“We’re looking to give Chyna more opportunities to steal bases,” Hilliard-Gray said. “That’s one area we haven’t been able to utilize her speed as much as we need to. It’s just a matter of her becoming more comfortable stealing bases and understanding what she can and can’t do in different game situations.”

While Riley is satisfied with the progress she’s made at the plate, she’s especially pleased with how she’s developed as a pitcher. Even though she’s not overpowering on the mound, she’s more than held her own by changing the speed and placement of her pitches.

“Since I’m a slower pitcher, it’s easier for hitters to pick up on my pitches,” said Riley, who’s interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. “I work a lot on my spins and it shows on the field. As long as I have (ball) movement, then I’m good.”

In the CIAA’s pre-season balloting, Winston-Salem State (20-15 as of April 5) was picked to finish second behind Chowan. So far, the Rams are 7-1 against conference opponents. Riley is confident that her team has what it takes to make a strong run at the conference crown this spring.

“As long as we stick together as a team, I believe we can win it,” she said. “If we’re in a bad situation, we can’t get down (on ourselves) because we’ll stay down. So, if we encourage each other to stay up, then we’ll be fine.”

From a coach’s perspective, perhaps the biggest plus about Riley is that she’s a little over half-way through her career as a college softball player. Hilliard-Gray has a lot of reasons to be optimistic about what the future holds for Riley.

“Chyna is a great asset to the team and I’m glad that she’s only in her junior year,” said Hilliard-Gray. “We have more things to work on that will allow her to grow and become more of a dominant player in her senior year.”

As a pitcher, WSSU’s Chyna Riley keeps opposing hitters off balance with an assortment of breaking pitches.

About Author

Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors