The women’s softball team wel­comed Riley Johnson to its coaching staff this month. Johnson played out­field and second base at Syracuse Uni­versity. (Photo: Riley Johnson / Courtesy)

There will be another new face in the Hillsdale College softball team’s dugout this spring. 

Riley Johnson joined Hillsdale’s softball coaching staff as an assistant coach this November. Though this is her first position coaching college softball, she brings her longtime love of the game and playing expe­rience with her.

“I’ve always wanted to get involved with college ath­letics and either pursue a coaching career or go into ath­letic admin­is­tration, so when I saw the job was open for an assistant coach, I imme­di­ately applied,” Johnson said.

She first began playing softball as a young child — because her father was a coach — and has stuck with the sport ever since.

“As long as I can remember, I think I’ve had a ball in my hand,” she said.

Johnson grad­uated from Syracuse Uni­versity with a master’s degree in sport venue and event man­agement, and pursued her bachelor’s degree at Syracuse as well, while playing for its softball team. During her four-year career, she played out­field and second base. She batted .404 during her high-school career, earning her the title of New York AA Player of the Year. 

Johnson’s softball career, however, was hin­dered by four shoulder surg­eries, three of which plagued her col­le­giate career.

“That allowed me to kind of develop the coach’s eye and be a player-coach more while at Syracuse, since, unfor­tu­nately, I couldn’t be on the field as much as I wanted,” she said. “That was def­i­nitely some­thing that allowed me to prepare for being a coach later on in life.”

Now, Johnson will put her skills to work at Hillsdale, after coaching high-school softball over the summer. Head coach Joe Abraham said Johnson’s work ethic and com­pat­i­bility with the school’s overall mission stood out from a pool of 40 appli­cants.

“She came across as very intel­ligent, very well-written,” Abraham said. “It was clear she under­stood our school and was a good fit here, and she brings a lot of softball knowledge to the table. Her demeanor with the players is a really good fit, and our players have taken really well to her.”

Addi­tionally, Abraham said her knowledge of the game will be a good com­plement to the current coaching staff, which con­sists of Abraham and assistant coach Jim Zoltowski.

“She brings quite a bit of knowledge about hitting and some defensive fun­da­mentals, also,” Abraham said. “Just in general, the mechanics of the game she’s very good with. My strength is more the mental side of the game, so it’s good she brings some­thing opposite to the table.”

Sophomore second baseman Amanda Marra said Johnson has helped manage off-season con­di­tioning, while intro­ducing new hitting and fielding drills. She also helps manage the softball study table and attends the team’s Bible study.

“She fits in really well,” Marra said. “She’s pretty young, so she’s really relatable to us. We’re all really excited that she’s joining us, and we’re excited for the season.”