By LARRY BOWEN
Eagle Staff Writer
Julianne Riley is at peace with the fact that her softball career is coming to an end, but she is fighting hard to go out in style.
Riley is the starting second baseman for A&M Consolidated, which will face Bryan in the first round of the Crosstown Showdown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Aggie Softball Complex.
Unlike other seniors who have devoted years to the sport, played on summer travel teams and been successful in high school, Riley doesn't dream of playing softball in college. She intends to give up the sport and focus on her studies after high school.
That doesn't mean Riley has no plans for the rest of her softball career.
"I want to have a good senior year," Riley said. "I don't want to end on a bad note."
Riley is in her second season as a starter for the Lady Tigers. She drew some interest from Paris Junior College coaches and probably could have boosted her chances of joining a college program as a walk-on had she pressed the issue, as do many players who followed similar softball career tracks.
She began playing softball at age 5. She takes extra hitting practice every day with her father in their batting cage at home, but Riley is ready to leave the sport that's been such a big part of her life.
"This is my last year to play softball, ever," Riley said. "I'm done after this. I'm going to focus more on school in college. I love playing softball. It's fun. I'll be sad to let it go, but it's something I have to do. I'm just ready for a new chapter in my life."
Riley plans to study agriculture in college. Before she heads across town to start classes at Blinn, she'll continue her devotion to softball.
"She's very dependable, and she's always going to do her part," Consol coach Billy Hicks said. "She has pride in her game and pride in her team.
"She doesn't say a whole lot, but you can read her face and tell how she's feeling. She's one of our quiet leaders. She just goes out and does her job."
Riley played primarily second base throughout her softball career, but she switched to right field last season. Consol had a returning senior to play second base, and Riley just wanted to get into the lineup.
"We needed someone to play right field last year and give us a few extra good cuts at the plate," Hicks said. "She did a good job out there. She saved us out there in a few situations."
Riley welcomed the move back to second for her senior season. She also moved up a couple of spots in the batting order to fifth, taking a spot where she is expected to produce runs.
Although Riley's average has dipped from .323 last season to .254 this year, she knows there is time to finish the softball chapter of her life with a flourish.
"I hit every day with my dad in our batting cage," Riley said. "I want to make my senior year memorable."
• Larry Bowen's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.