Milligan looked upon as one of top teams in AAC

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT

  
The sights, sounds, and smells are all around. Aluminum making contact with leather, a dust cloud created by a sliding player, and peanut shells scattered on the ground are all indications of the return of America's game--baseball.
   For Milligan College, it has come time to see if its preseason nod as the number two team in the conference pans out or if the Buffs could actually fare better by becoming the top dog in the race.
   "We are picked second in the league behind preseason favorite Brevard," stated Milligan Buff coach Danny Clark. "The conference should be well balanced this year."
   Clark is optimistic about his teams chances this year. The Buffs have some talented returning players to the lineup this season, but Clark and his staff will also have some players who have as yet proved themselves.
   Leading the way for the Buffs this year will be all-conference selection Scott Shealy, a junior outfielder from Erwin.
   Other top players include senior first baseman Jeremy Christian from Bristol, Va.; senior second baseman Chuck Arnold from Bristol, Tenn.; senior catcher David Hilton of Gray, and junior DH/third baseman Ben Whittemore, a former Elizabethton Cyclone.
   Pitching is a key element for any team from little league all the way to the Major Leagues. With that in mind, Coach Clark has the look of a kid with a sweet tooth in a candy store.
   Said Clark: "Pitching should be our strength this year with returning starters Brad Zachritz of Fort Myers, Fla.; and last year's Pitcher of the Year Dustin Barrett from Tazewell, Va.
   "Chris Shockley, a sophomore from Morristown, and junior Matt Simmons from Richlands, Va. will add depth at pitcher as well."
   The Buffs landed two more quality freshman pitchers to throw into the mix. Left-handed fireballer Chris Gambill from Mountain City and Kingsport native Adam Taylor will add reinforcement to the pitching rotation.
   When asked about new faces that will make an impact on the Buffs squad, Clark said that Gambill would most certainly be that type of player. Dustin Price, a third baseman who hails from Johnson City, is another player that could have an immediate impact for Milligan.
   Clark has a familiar face helping him with the Milligan baseball program in Coach Ray Smith. Smith serves as the athletic director for Milligan, but is more recognizable in an Elizabethton Twin uniform.
   Added Clark: "Ray impresses me everyday as he works with the hitters and catchers on an everyday basis. I learn as much from him as the players do. I am lucky to have a baseball man like Ray Smith."
   There have been a lot of improvements in the Milligan baseball program as Clark enters his third season. The facilities and program have witnessed several changes, but Clark still seeks to take the program to the national level.
   By looking up and down the roster, it doesn't take long to see the influence of local athletes on the baseball program at Milligan. Clark, a former star at Elizabethton and ETSU, realizes the importance of adding local flavor to the program.
   "We currently have 13 players from the Tri-Cities," stated Clark. "I think it allows us to draw more of a fan base by pulling in the local talent."
   The tools are definitely in place for the Buffs to make a run at the conference championship. With a rocky 1-6 start to the season, the Buffs will quickly need to right the ship if they are to finish in the upper echelon of the conference.
   Look for Clark and Smith to make the necessary tuning to get the Buffs up and running again.
   If you enjoy seeing local talent performing at the collegiate level, a trip to Milligan's Anglin Field on game day may be just what you need.
   Milligan is a hard-nosed team that will be hard for anyone to waltz over. The Buffs have the pitching and the defense that will drive any opposing coach mad.