Cooperstown alumnus Reilly Hall is set to begin his senior season at Division II Coker University, on Saturday, Feb. 13.
Coker University — a small private institution in Hartsville, South Carolina — opens its 2021 season with a doubleheader at Lenoir-Rhyne.
“We look pretty good this year I’d say. We have a very experienced lineup and pitching staff. We have a lot of junior college transfers and some fifth-year graduate transfers that came in this year that are going to play a big role,” Hall said.
“I think that our experience, not only with guys that have played at Coker so far — but at other universities — our experience will take us a long ways, just because a lot of guys have playing conference games under their belt, which can be quite intimidating as a young freshman,” he added.
The Cobras are returning 22 players from last year’s team, in addition to adding 18 freshman and 11 transfers.
“We have a solid group of returners who will bring much-needed experience to our lineup and pitching staff,” Coker Head Coach Bob McLaughlin said in a media release. “We are very happy with our returners and how they have progressed throughout their careers here at Coker.”
Coker’s schedule is trimmed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The original 50-game schedule has been reduced to 40 and the team will play primarily on weekends, with the elimination of most weekday competition.
Last year, in its pandemic-truncated season, Coker was held to 23 games, posting an 8-15 record.
Hall’s 2019-20 campaign was a down year; he appeared in 13 games for the Cobras, hitting .217 with 10 runs batted in and six walks
As a freshman, Hall hit .309 with 20 RBIs and 28 walks, in 42 games. The following year, he hit .313 with 35 RBIs and 31 walks, in 45 games.
“I just want to be super consistent at the plate. I hit for a little bit of power my sophomore year, I’d like to increase my power numbers a little bit ... I’d like to have maybe five to eight homers. But more importantly, have a very high on-base percentage, which I think will allow me to have a pretty fair batting average as well,” Hall said. “If I can get on base any way I take that as a positive ... (I) just want to help the team as much as I can at the plate,”
Hall’s on-field success for Coker has come in part from putting in extra work to adjust to college-level pitching.
“(In high school) you don’t see as fast of pitching as you see at the college level, so my first fall at Coker was a pretty big struggle getting used to that,” Hall said.
“Being able to hit the higher-velocity pitches and being able to hit the better off-speed — these guys can locate it, they can throw it hard and they throw it when they want to and where they want to,” he added.
As a senior for Cooperstown, Hall batted .421 with an on-base percentage of .700. He also stole 22 bases, drew 19 walks and didn’t strike out as a hitter for the Hawkeyes.
Hall also had to adjust in the field. A lifelong shortstop and third baseman, he was thrust into the outfield early for the Cobras.
“The first day I got sent out to left field and I didn’t even have an outfielder’s glove, so I was using a tiny mitt in left field,” Hall said.
“I’m happy that I got moved out there. I really fell in love with the outfield. I take pride in catching fly balls, it’s kind of a slept-on aspect of the game,” Hall said.
Although Hall is a senior criminal justice and business double major, he will have one more year of eligibility. In late October of 2020, the NCAA announced it had granted an additional year of eligibility to NCAA athletes whose seasons had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hall plans on remaining at Coker and pursuing an athletic administration masters degree.
“I really have a connection with Coker, all the coaching staff, all the guys on the team and I just definitely want to come back here for my last year of eligibility,” Hall said.