Lady Buffs looking for AAC crown

from staff reports

   The Milligan Lady Buffs softball program holds high expectations for the upcoming season.
   Six players return from a 28-19 record during the 2003 battle for the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship, which included a 20-8 conference record that helped the Lady Buffs to a second-place finish. At the regional tournament, Milligan finished in fourth place.
   This year, the Lady Buffs softball team will be young with six freshmen and one junior college transfer. The incoming class is talented as shown with performances in the fall season, including a victory over East Tennessee State University.
   The Lady Buffs set their sights on winning the AAC Championship and advancing to the NAIA Region XII Tournament.
   Among the returning starters is two-time All-AAC junior pitcher Brandy Waddle (Telford, Tenn.). In the 2003 season, Waddle was 18-14 with a 1.03 ERA in 35 games. She struck out 130 batters in 183 innings. Her batting average against was a low .154. Waddle led the AAC in wins, saves, innings pitched and strike outs.
   Returning to pitch for Milligan is sophomore Courtney Ruth (Kansas City, Kan.). Ruth will step in and be effective for the Lady Buffs with a different look, as she is the only left handed pitcher on the staff.
   Also a leading returnee is senior captain Shelby Banion (Paris, Ky.). Banion is a key player who can pitch, play short stop and also be the catcher. She was 8th in the conference with 31 hits last season, 3rd with nine doubles, and 4th in runs batted in with 23. Her leadership will be a key as the Lady Buffs set their sights towards the championship.
   Junior first baseman Brooke Davis returns from an ankle injury suffered during the 2003 season. Last season she played in 12 games and hit .289. In her freshman season of 2002, Davis had a batting average of .366, with 31 RBI's and two homeruns. She can step up and be the power hitter the Lady Buffs need in the lineup.
   In the outfield, the Lady Buffs return senior Ellen Stoots (Bristol, Tenn.) and sophomore Rebecca Gilley (Big Stone Gap, Va.).
   Milligan picked up two transfer students for the 2004 season. Traci Harrison is a junior pitcher from Chipley, Fla. Along with Harrison is Tusculum College transfer Allyson Horner, a freshman outfielder from Morristown Tenn.
   Key freshman for Coach Wes Holly include outfielders Sarah Smith (Elizabethton, Tenn.) and Amanda Verner (Asheville, N.C.). Smith and Verner add speed to the Lady Buffs outfield and on the bases.
   In the infield, Holly added Megan Aldridge (Johnson City, Tenn.), Ashley Mashburn (Limestone, Tenn.) and Leah Fritz (Knoxville, Tenn.). Aldridge will see playing time at third base during her freshman season. Mashburn will play at second base and catcher. Fritz can play in the middle of the infield at shortstop, second base or outfield.
   Coach Wes Holly returns for his 16th season as coach of the Lady Buffs. He is excited about the possibilities for the Milligan softball program.
   "If we can get the confidence and leadership early," said Holly, "then I think we will have a good chance at winning the conference this season."
   Coach Holly's son, Wes Holly, Jr. returns for his 2nd season as assistant coach.
   Milligan will be challenged by Tennessee Wesleyan and UVA-Wise for the top spot in the AAC.
   The Lady Buffs open the 2004 season Feb. 9th against Mars Hill (N.C.) College at 2:00 p.m., Anglin Field, Milligan College.