May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Friday night, Tustin QB helped team win; Saturday he slugged home run and got victory

Riley Kelly capped a big weekend Saturday for Tustin High. (Photo courtesy Tustin High)

Tustin High School junior Riley Kelly stepped up in two big ways last weekend.

Friday night, Kelly completed 5 of 11 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown and rushed for two more scores to help the Tillers capture a 49-6 Empire League football victory over Pacifica. Tustin, coached by Anthony Lopez, is 2-1 overall.

Less than 24 hours later, Kelly was on the baseball field, helping Tustin defeat Yorba Linda 3-0 in the opening round of the Ryan Lemmon series. He was 1 for 2 with a home run and two RBI and on the mound, pitched four shutout innings and struck out five to get the win.

After having no sports to compete in for eight months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kelly has found himself busy again, and loving it.

“I was just trying to make up for the time lost,” he said. “It was terrible; the urge to play was killing me.”

But Kelly said he is happy now competing in the two sports he loves equally.

“It’s awesome, I love to play,” said Kelly.

The fun started Friday night.

“The football game was pretty fun; overall it was a great team effort,” said the 6-3 Kelly on Monday.

Kelly praised the efforts of his teammates, including the Tustin running backs who helped him get into position for his scores.

On Saturday, he donned a different uniform for Coach Charles Chatman’s baseball team.

“I was just following up on my other pitcher Mikey (Michael Mihalovich) because he pitched three shutout innings and I just pitched the rest,” he said. “Everyone was hitting that day, so it just felt good off the bat.”

Kelly, who was cheered on by his mother in both games, said he felt fine after Saturday’s baseball game.

“The legs were a little sore, but overall, I felt good,” he said.

With the help of the Tustin coaches, Kelly had a plan going into the season. During the abbreviated football season, he will practice with the football team. The football season goes until the middle of April while baseball is scheduled to last until May.

“Right now for baseball, I’m only playing on the weekends and football is the main prioritity because it’s a shorter season,” he said. “The coaches talked to each other and said they had a plan for me.”

“Riley is a great kid who has improved tremendously over the past year in both sports,” said Tustin Athletic Director Tom Giebe, also an assistant coach with the football team.

“Against Crean Lutheran Riley was 11-for-15 for 230 yards (three passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown).  Last week against Pacifica he rushed for two touchdowns and had another one passing. Saturday, he pitched well and hit a 2-run home run helping lead the Tillers to victory.  He’s worked hard managing his time with both sports, communicating with his coaches and doing everything in his ability to be ready every time he walks out on the field.”

Chatman, the baseball coach, pointed out how remarkable Kelly’s efforts were during an unprecedented time, when football and baseball are going on at the same time due to the rescheduling of the football season, which would normally have started in August.

“What we are asking these kids to do is extremely difficult and borderline crazy, play, be a full-time football player, play a game Friday night and show up Saturday afternoon and be competitive in a baseball game after not practicing all week,” Chatman said. “But Riley has embraced the challenge and is finding a way to make it work. It worked today (Saturday).”

—TIm Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com