Expectations run high for Lady Buffs

By Travis Brown

STAR Staff

   Returning with a senior laden team and with a solid season to build upon, this year could offer a golden opportunity for the Milligan College Lady Buffs' softball program to step up to higher ground.
   Last season, the Lady Buffs played to a second-place finish in the AAC and made a respectable showing at the NAIA regional tournament placing fourth.
   With an experienced club coming back, and key underclassmen preparing to fill in the gaps, skipper Wes Holly has high hopes for the 2003 season.
   "Our goal is to win the conference, that will not be easy," Holly said. "We are going to have to hit the ball and cut down on our mental mistakes."
   Losing only two starters to graduation is cause for excitement on Milligan's campus, as strong pitching and team balance should spell a winning formula for the Lady Buffs this season.
   Brandy Waddle will return for her sophomore season on the heels of a fine performance on the mound last season. Her play should deliver solid outings on the hill as well as contributions from batter's box as well.
   Unaka pitching standout Ashley Fine will share the pitching chores, with freshman Courney Ruth also seeing some innings.
   Offensively, Holly is proud of the team's offseason work ethic and thinks the hard work will pay dividends at the plate.
   "We have worked pretty hard in the offseason, and some of the girls have stepped up," Holly said. "We really look for overall balance, and we feel like our hitting and defense will win games for us."
   Waddle joins standouts Booke Davis, Andrea Henriott, Carissa Ellis as all AAC players that will once again grace the diamond for Milligan. All of these ladies will be expected to deliver big both with the glove and at the dish.
   "We expect big contributions from them," Holly said. "We have tried to relax, and overcome our mental mistakes."
   Last season's statsheet should improve this season, as last year the Lady Buffs compiled a team .292 batting average and fielding percentage just a shade under 95 percent.
   The only question marks will remain at the two positions left to be filled by graduation, as the catching duties as well as outfield detail will have to be redistributed.
   Rebecca Dawson and Sarah Steele will see time behind the plate looking to pick up the battery responsibilities, while outfield will see platoon duty early in the 2003 season.
   With a strong emphasis on all aspects of the game, Holly hopes his club will show little weakness as the season gets underway.
   "Overall we should be good defensively, and we are average speed wise," Holly said. "We must eliminate mental mistakes and pitching will be a big key.