Isaacs’ dream now a reality after signing with Rio Grande

Published 12:18 am Saturday, November 18, 2023

Chesapeake Lady Panthers’ senior softball standout Riley Isaacs signed a letter-of-intent to play for the University of Rio Grande RedStorm. Attending the signing ceremony were, left to right, Rio Grande assistant coach Mallory Stonebreaker, Riley and mother Amy Willis. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photos/For The Ironton Tribune)

By Jim Walker

CHESAPEAKE — “Only in America. Dreaming in red, white and blue. Only in America. Where we dream as big as we want to.”

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This song by Brooks and Dunn was a No.1 hit as it talked about making dreams come true in America.

Chesapeake Lady Panthers’ softball standout Riley Isaacs has now seen her dream come true as she was a big hit with the University of Rio Grande softball head coach Chris Hammond and signed a letter-of-intent to play for the RedStorm.

“From the signing and seeing all the stuff happening, it’s coming true. I never thought this could happen,” said Isaacs.

Riley Isaacs

The dream of playing college softball began at the age of 7 for Isaacs and continued to grow each season.

“Whenever I was seven, I wanted to see how good I could get. At 7 years old, I just fell in love with the game after playing it my first year, so I wanted to continue,” said Isaacs.

“When I went to a Marshall (University) camp and saw all the college players, I said I want to be a college player, too.”

Isaacs talked with numerous schools such as Bluffton, West Virginia Tech, Hocking Tech, Ohio Christian University in Circleville and West Virginia State.

“Whenever I stepped on campus, it felt like home. It was just beautiful. The campus was something I loved. Everything about it felt like home to me,” said Isaacs.

Rio Grande plans to keep Isaacs at her current outfield position. She plays centerfield for the Lady Panthers but said she can play all three outfield spots.

“I’m mainly a centerfielder in high school. Travel ball I’m left field,” said Isaacs.

The speedy Isaacs stole 11 bases last season and has her sights set this season on the conference record of 12.

“I want to beat the stolen base record and beat my old outfield (fielding) record,” said Isaacs. “Last year, I got second in the league in stolen bases. This year I want to get first.”

Justin Adkins was the Chesapeake Lady Panthers coach the past 3 seasons before accepting another job in Kentucky. He had nothing but high praise for Isaacs.

“That was a group that came in and we started six freshmen. She came in and started in center and had speed to kill. She shows up for off-season workouts, plays travel ball, she’s just ate up with the life of it all,” said Adkins.

“I’m really, really happy that this girl — because we didn’t really have a good record the last few years — got her name out there a little bit and Rio took interest in her because she’s a kid who has earned it.”

Adkins said Isaacs has outstanding defensive skills to go with excellent speed that will get her playing time. He said her next step is adjusting to hitting college pitchers.

“I think her speed plays. It’s just going to be a progression from OVC ball to college level. But the speed will always play. The range and question is never in question. Getting accustomed to college pitching and where she fits into that will be the big key to her playing,” said Adkins.

Many high school players are burdened with making a decision on what they plan to do once they graduate. Isaacs said that signing with Rio Grande eliminates that anxiety.

“It’s a relief to know where I’m going and get some rest, improve myself on the field and on the field and just have a good high school season,” said Isaacs.

While Isaacs has one high school season left to play and enjoy, she feels confident about jumping to the next level.

“It’s going to take a lot of work and dedication, off the field and on the field,” said Isaacs. “I feel really excited. I like to challenge myself when it comes to life, like in sports.

Issacs — who plays basketball and runs track— plans to major in physical science and become an athletic trainer.

“I’d like to coach on the side. I’d like to stay in the sport,” said Isaacs.