GALENA, Kan. — Ryan Taylor, the head coach of the Aces Fastpitch Club in Kansas City, traditionally only had one team as part of his travel softball organization. But with college recruiting starting at earlier ages, Taylor and his wife looked to expand to a younger generation of athletes.
That led him to the McNemar family from Galena, Kansas.
“We kind of put an all-star team together throughout the Midwest,” Taylor said. “We got in contact with Mark (McNemar), and at that time (Riley) was with a different team. Some of those came up to try out, and we started putting a team together. We had an opportunity to work with Riley. We noticed some things as far as bat speed, her glove work and the way she did some things on the field (that) we thought were impressive. We sat down with her, and we said, ‘Hey, here is our view for the years moving forward. We think you have an opportunity to play some pretty high-level Division I softball.' That was her eighth grade moving into her freshman year when we started to identify she had a pretty high talent ceiling.”
And playing on Taylor’s travel club proved to be a launching pad in terms of exposure for McNemar. Not only did she get the opportunity to play throughout the country, but she also played against some of the most elite softball talent in the United States.
That also led to her being ranked as the 64th best prospect in the nation by FloSoftball and No. 71 by Extra Innings Elite 100 for the class of 2021. McNemar’s performance with the Aces Fastpitch Club combined with her high school performances at Galena piqued the interest of several “high-level” Division I softball programs.
None of the programs compared to playing for SEC powerhouse Auburn — a dream school for McNemar. She signed her national letter of intent to play softball with the Tigers last Wednesday.
But on Tuesday, Galena hosted a celebration signing with McNemar’s friends, family and coaches in attendance at the high school gymnasium.
“It was really just insane,” McNemar said. “I never thought I would be here. To have all my friends, family and coaches supporting me, it really just means a lot to me.”
Taylor was among the coaches at the signing, and he believes her offensive ability will translate well against SEC pitching.
“Riley is not an extremely big kid, but she knows her body very well and she has a lot of power at the plate,” Taylor said. “Her ability to generate power within her body is at a high level. It really meets those SEC standards of what it takes to be a player in that league.”
Taylor also lauded McNemar’s defensive ability at second base, but what sets her apart is her game IQ.
“That is what I absolutely love about her,” Taylor added.
Like with most incoming freshmen, there is typically an adjustment period to get acclimated to the rigors of being a student-athlete. McNemar believes the transition “won’t be as difficult” because she already has a relationship with some of the players at Auburn — even 12 hours from home.
“But I think it will be pretty hard to get used to,” McNemar said. “Waking up at 5 a.m. in the morning to go to workouts and stuff will be difficult, but I think I can do it. I have never been away from my parents longer than a week, so I think they will get more homesick for me than I will for myself.”
As for what she’s looking forward to most playing for a dream softball program:
“I’m looking forward to competing for a championship,” McNemar said. “I think we can pull that one off. I think we have the No. 1 class in 2021. I think we can do it.”