By CHAD G. WELCH • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
At the beginning of the 2021 baseball season, Coker University senior outfielder Riley Hall had five career collegiate home runs. He matched that total Saturday, April 3, during a doubleheader at the University of Virginia-Wise.
Hall, a 2017 graduate of Cooperstown Central School and former Oneonta Outlaw, hit two home runs in the first game and three more in the second game to pace the Cobras, who combined for ten homers in the sweep, an 18-1 victory that was shortened to five innings by run rule and an 11-5 win, respectively.
Hall also hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh of an 8-4 loss in the seven-inning opening game of the series Friday, April 2. Coker beat the Cavaliers, 10-4, in the nine-inning second game.
With the series win, the Cobras improved their overall record to 13-16 and 12-11 in conference play and moved into seventh place in the 13 team South Atlantic Conference.
Coker University is an NCAA Division II school in Hartsville, South Carolina.
Hall finished the week batting .438 with six home runs, a double, 13 RBIs, 13 runs scored and seven walks, and the three homers he hit in the final game of the series tied a single-game school record.
On Tuesday, April 6, Hall was named South Atlantic Conference AstroTurf Player of the Week by the league and Southeast Region Player of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, his first-ever Player of the Week honors.
“It was a pretty good weekend,” Hall said on Thursday, April 8. “I really don’t know what else to say, it was just a blur with everything that happened, but it was definitely a lot of fun.”
“I completely forgot about the first day, too, just because with the second day I was like, wow, that was kind of crazy,” he said.
Hall said that after a slow start to the season personally, the most exciting part of his recent hot hitting was helping Coker reach the 12-win mark in the SAC for the first time since he joined the team.
“I started off slow and I’ve just been kind of picking things up and getting more in the groove,” Hall said. “So that’s why it was a good weekend to have, to kind of get back on my feet because it really has kind of been a down year for me hitting wise.
“But this is the most wins we’ve had since I have been here in conference and we still have two weeks left, so that’s what really matters to me, that we are coming together as a team and winning a lot more games than usual,” he said.
With nine home runs during the regular season, Hall ranked ninth in the SAC and he was tied for fifth with 26 walks. Hall was also 17th with 31 runs scored and 19th with 29 RBIs according to information provided by Coker’s Sports Information Department.
Hall led the Cobras in all four categories as well in total bases (57) and stolen bases (9) and he tied for the team lead with 12 extra-base hits. Hall batted .232 over 35 games with 145 plate appearances in 2021.
Hall is currently fourth on Coker’s single season home run list (9) and tied for third in program history in career home runs (14), fifth in career RBIs (94) and eighth in career hits (129).
The Cobras finished the regular season with an overall record of 15-20 and went 13-14 in the SAC. They seeded seventh in the eight team conference tournament and will play sixth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne in the second game on Thursday April 22 at Smokies Stadium in Kodak, Tennessee.
As a freshman in 2017-18, Hall played in 42 games batting .309 with a .427 on-base percentage and led his team with 28 walks which ranked 18th in the SAC. He tied for the team lead with seven stolen bases in eight attempts.
As a sophomore, Hall had a total of 50 hits including all five of his career home runs before this season and he scored 32 runs. His junior year was shortened due to COVID-19 and injuries and he appeared in just 13 games.
Going into this season, Hall said he really wanted to build on what he accomplished during his first two years and bounce back after a disappointing end to last season.
“My first two years I started off strong,” he said. “Last year, I got off to a slow start and I was injured for a few weeks and then we got the season taken from us due to Covid. Then I had a good summer and a good fall.
“So I just really wanted to focus on my body (in the weight room) and just making sure I was going to be healthy for every single game and not miss anything,” he said.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot faster and stronger, a lot more power hitting wise,” he said. “When I came in, I didn’t really have a lot of power out of high school. I thought I did but I really didn’t in the scheme of things.”
Hall said he is looking forward to a strong finish and returning to play at Coker next season as a graduate student after being granted another year of eligibility because of COVID-19. He is double majoring in business and criminology and will seek a master’s in college athletics administration with hopes of someday getting into coaching.
This summer Hall said he will play for the Spartanburgers in Spartansburg, South Carolina, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Coastal Plain League.