Amber Riddle rounded the bases Tuesday after her latest collegiate home run, feeling a combination of joy and relief.
Morehead State’s senior first baseman slammed a pitch over the fence in left-center against visiting Northern Kentucky for her school-record 31st career home run.
“I had been tied for quite a few games and was wondering when I was going to break it,” Riddle said.
She knew it would come, however, despite playing this season with a torn rotator cuff for which she receives treatment once and sometimes twice daily.
“Some days are worse than others,” Riddle said. “I’m going to play through it. This is my last season and I might as well do the best I can.”
Riddle plans to have surgery after the season. She said the injury happened last year and has gotten progressively worse.
“I just found out it was torn before the start of the season,” Riddle said. ”I can tell it’s considerably weaker.”
Tuesday’s homer was her fourth in 24 games so far this season and helped trigger the Lady Eagles to a doubleheader sweep of Northern Kentucky.
“I was excited and relieved all at the same time,” said Riddle, who received a huge welcome at home plate from her teammates. “They can be noisy on a daily basis, but after I hit that one some of the screams were really loud. Katie Raile, our third baseman, said it gave her chills.”
MSU head coach David Williams was experiencing some of his own.
“That home run was a big deal for Amber and is a testament to the work she has put in here,” Williams said. “It was important for her to leave a mark on our program.”
Riddle snapped a tie with former teammate Rebecca Butler, who hit 30 home runs from 2008-11.
“I played with her for two years,” Riddle recalled. “She was always that one you looked up to, especially with her being a junior when I was a freshman. She was definitely our best hitter. For me to be up there by her name is special to me.”
Now, Riddle stands alone as the record-holder, just as she did while slamming 55 home runs at Rowan County High School to become No. 1 in state history.
Kentucky’s Miss Softball turned down other college offers to remain in her hometown and play for the Lady Eagles.
“It does mean a lot,” Riddle said. “I know my decision to go here was mostly for my family to be able to see me play, and they were there for the record. In college, you really have to be focused. If not, you are going to miss out. You push yourself, and you push others. The whole experience has been great for me.”
There’s plenty of softball remaining for Riddle and her teammates this spring. Because of postponements due to rain, cold and snow, the Lady Eagles (13-11) are scheduled to play 24 games in April.
Riddle, hitting at a .385 clip this season while playing errorless ball in the field, doesn’t want to miss a thing as her terrific MSU career begins to wind down.
“We have a lot of games left,” she said. “Because of the injury, I’m just trying to be more consistent than powerful. I’m looking for base hits more than home runs.”
Riddle is on the verge of breaking Morehead’s RBI and total base records. She already holds the mark for walks (94).
The former Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year was selected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Mideast Region first team in 2012, when she hit 12 home runs to set the Lady Eagles’ season record.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.