Long has Riley McNemar had dreams of playing for Division I softball powerhouse Auburn.
The Galena star turned that decade-long aspiration into a reality on Wednesday when she signed her national letter-of-intent to play softball with the Tigers.
“It has been me and my dad’s dream since I was 9 to play at Auburn,” McNemar said. “It really just means the most to me that we can share this. I think signing the letter-of-intent just makes it a permanent thing.”
And McNemar certainly has the credentials to play for the Southeastern Conference program.
She earned first team and second team all-state honors in her first two seasons as a Bulldog. As a freshman, she hit .506 in 25 games and collected 41 hits, including 23 that went for extra bases.
In 2019, McNemar upped her average to a whopping .534. Her junior season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she has played travel ball with the Aces Fastpitch Club out of Northwest Arkansas for the last several years.
Those performances and exposure led to her being ranked as the 64th best prospect in the nation by FloSoftball and No. 71 by Extra Innings Elite 100 for 2021.
“Riley is a power player both offensively and defensively,” Auburn coach Mickey Dean said in a release. “She plays with great strength and confidence.”
McNemar called her recruiting process “wild.” She said she considered other offers from Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas A&M, but nothing ever really compared to Auburn.
“Auburn really feels like home,” McNemar said. “Everyone down there is so amazing. Everyone you meet will greet you with a smile and probably a hug, too. There is so much support from the town, and the team is really just like a family.”
McNemar is considered one of the top power bats in the 2021 class, registering exit speeds over 70 miles per hour off the bat, according to scouting reports. Defensively, she’s described as a strong-armed second baseman who has excellent feet, instincts and can position herself to make the difficult plays look easy.
Galena coach Jacoby Martin echoed her scouting report.
“Offensively and defensively, you don’t get any better than that,” Martin said. “Riley can change the ballgame with one swing. She is able to be patient in the box and get her pitch. She probably would have been an all-state player last year had it not been for the pandemic. She is a power player offensively and defensively, but her character and work ethic are second to none as well.”
But before she heads 12 hours south to Auburn, McNemar has unfinished business at Galena in what will be her senior season this spring. She helped the Bulldogs to the Kansas 3A state championship game in 2019, but they finished as the runner-up.
McNemar believes Galena can do better.
“We have such a good chance at making it to state this year and even potentially winning it,” McNemar said. “We have a really good pitcher and almost all of our outfielders back if we can convince one to stay. We have a great catcher. We have a full infield. I think we will do great this year.”
As for what lies ahead, don’t overlook McNemar once she arrives at Auburn, according to Martin.
“We are excited for her and the opportunity ,” Martin said. “I wouldn’t bet against her at all. She is a hard worker. She is in the cages all the time and getting those extra reps in. I wouldn’t bet against her.”