HHS's Aulick signs with West Liberty
HUNTINGTON -- Being a banjo hitter is a negative in baseball.
Huntington High pitching standout Riley Aulick might be called a banjo pitcher, a positive term in that the senior right-hander often demonstrates his proficiency playing music and hurling baseballs. West Liberty University took notice of the latter and signed Aulick to a letter of intent.
"One of my favorite things to do when I'm not playing baseball is playing music with my friends," Aulick said. "I have learned to play the mandolin, banjo and guitar, and my friends and I get together and just play. I also like hanging out with my friends and teammates."
Aulick has performed well this season. In five appearances and 17.1 innings, he is 3-1 with a 2.42 earned run average and 16 strikeouts. On Tuesday, he held a potent Cabell Midland lineup to one run in 4.1 innings of relief.
He also visited Bethany College and Concord University before choosing West Liberty, which has a 22-19 record under second-year coach Eric Burke, who led the Hilltopers to a West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament appearance last season. West Liberty now competes in the Mountain East Conference.
Aulick said he would have been happy at Bethany or Concord, but West Liberty was a better fit.
"I chose West Liberty because immediately after my visit I already felt like a part of the team," Aulick said. "Coach Burkle and coach (Justin) Edwards started talking about their expectations of me which made me feel like an important part of the future of the program. Also, the current players on the team went out of their way to make me feel like a member of the team and I knew I was joining a great group of guys."
Aulick, who plans to major in Biology, pitches and plays the infield for Huntington High. He said the Hilltoppers recruited him as a hurler.
"I was recruited to pitch, but wouldn't mind expanding my role if the coaches felt I could help," said Aulick, whose curveball is his best among four pitches.
Aulick thanked a myriad of people for his success, including parents Lou and Heather Aulick for "Sitting through all the games, driving me to practices and encouraging me when things seemed to be going wrong. They never stop believing in me and always encouraged me to get better."
He also thanked his high school and Little League coaches, as well as others he credited for making him a better player.
"All of my coaches have influenced me," Aulick said. "This year (Huntington High coach Danny) Harbert has done a great job of reinforcing the mental side to pitching. But, I need to mention two other coaches who have meant a great deal to me. Chris Dunn, who was a junior varsity coach my freshman year and Tom Smith at Tri-State Baseball Academy.
"Coach Dunn did a great job of showing confidence in me even when I was struggling. He saw my potential and made sure to let me know I could be a good pitcher. Tom Smith was as instrumental in making my skills college ready as anybody. He knew I had the ability and made sure that I respected the mechanics of pitching. He's the person I reach out to when something isn't quite right."