It has been a remarkable year for Patrick Riehl, one which he and his family will never forget. From completing his final season with Mars Hill University in North Carolina, to being drafted in the 26th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball (MLB) Amateur Draft, all the way to the completion of his first season in the minor leagues, the last 365 days have been a dream turned into reality for the former Lucasville Valley Indian.
Once he donned the Billings (Montana) Mustangs uniform several months ago, Riehl has had one memory making moment after another, beginning with his first professional appearance, first win and first save.
“There was definitely a lot of emotion going into that,” Riehl said. “Saving a ballgame is definitely a high, high energy, high adrenaline situation.”
Aside from several personal firsts, Riehl was excited to be a part of one of the more successful Pioneer League teams in Minor League Baseball.
As a member of the Mustangs, Riehl helped the Cincinnati Reds affiliate to a first place standing in the first half of the season, as well as a postseason appearance in the championship round of the league’s playoffs.
“That was a celebration,” Riehl said. “Just having a blast with all of the guys and being able to celebrate. Winning the first divisional series was a highlight and a lot of fun. Then getting to throw in the championship (series), being able to throw an inning. Throwing in that caliber of a game was really fun and exciting.”
During the Mustangs season, Riehl made 22 appearances for Billings, where he finished with a 5-2 record and a 3.76 ERA. In his 22 appearances, Riehl pitched 38.1 innings, giving up 33 hits — including three home runs — and 19 runs, 16 of which were earned. He issued 12 walks on the season all the while striking out 36, averaging 1.64 strikeouts per appearance.
Riehl made one appearance in the championship series against the Orem Owlz, during the final game of the series.
When Riehl heard his name called to begin warming up during the final game of the series only one thought was rolling around in his head, to get outs.
“It doesn’t matter how it looks, just hit your spots and get outs,” Riehl said. “That was the main thing I was really worried about. How am I going to attack these hitters.”
Riehl entered the game on a fresh inning and spent little time on the mound, making quick work of the Owlz.
“On the first pitch the guy grounded out and then the next pitch, the guy popped out. Then I struck the (next) guy out on three pitches,” Riehl said. “I only threw five pitches in that first inning.”
Riehl was sent back out the following inning, where he faced one batter. After working a 2-2 count, Riehl hit Owlz right fielder John Schuknecht.
“Coach took me out and told me I was still under the pitch count to be able to throw the next day, and he wanted to save a few arms to throw in the next game,” Riehl said. “That was the extent of it.”
When Riehl first started throwing this season, he had no idea his year would end pitching in the Pioneer League Championship Series.
“Then, I was just taking it one step at a time,” Riehl said. “I was just hoping I was going to get drafted and then it all happened. Then, before I knew it, I was pitching in a championship game and was just thinking this is pretty cool.
“It was like a dream and was just really cool to be able to experience that situation and get the experience of throwing in that caliber of a game.”
Riehl said he has created a massive mount of memories with his teammates and coaching staff this year, learning how to improve his game and to be a bigger asset for his team.
“I found out a lot about myself, battling through situations and battling through some rough outings and then coming back and jumping on the horse and getting right back at it,” Riehl said. “There’s so many lessons that I’ve learned. I couldn’t begin to describe them all.”
Since the completion of the Pioneer league season late in September, Riehl has been working in Goodyear, Arizona with other Reds prospects. He will return home during a break in the near future.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext. 1930.