Buffaloes, Crusaders divide doubleheader

By Allen LaMountain

   Getting a complete seven-inning shutout effort from senior Matt Simmons, the Milligan College Buffaloes dropped NCAA Division II North Greenville by a 9-0 tally in the opener of a twin-bill at Anglin Field on Saturday afternoon.
   The Crusaders (5-22) bounced back in the nightcap however to hand the Buffs -- and starter Dustin Barrett -- a 6-1 loss behind the stellar work of junior Jonathan Guest.
   Milligan (12-10) scored two runs in the third frame and single runs in the fourth and fifth before exploding for five runs in the sixth to chase Crusader starter Nick Groomes.
   Milligan centerfielder Scott Shealy was three-for-three in the opener with two runs scored and an RBI to his credit, while shortstop Will Little had two RBI in going two-for-four on the day.
   Simmons -- while not overpowering -- kept the North Greenville hitters off stride with a good low fastball and a breaking pitch he used sparingly.
   "I wasn't on with my breaking pitches at all today," said Simmons (5-1). "I went primarily with my fastball, but I showed them the breaking stuff sometimes. I got some good defensive work behind me from my infielder's especially Dustin Price at third. That always gives a pitcher a lot of confidence when the infield is making plays behind you."
   Shealy and Price each stole two bases in the opener that was made into a laugher in the sixth when pinch hitter Brad Hill struckout, but reached second base when the ball eluded North Greenville catcher Josh Osborne.
   Shealy plated Hill with a single and Little would send two more Milligan runners across with a ringing single through the hole at shortstop as the Buffs rapped out eight hits in the opening contest.
   "I thought Simmons did a real good job," said Milligan head coach Danny Clark. "He didn't have his best stuff out there, but he battled and kept us from losing the lead."
   Simmons surrendered just six hits while striking out three and walking just one.
   Game Two
   North Greenville 6
   Milligan 1
   Although his name is Guest, Crusader hurler Jonathan Guest felt right at home on the mound as he struck out 10 Buffs hitters and tossed six and one-third innings of six hit ball to halt the Crusaders two game losing string to the Buffs.
   Guest - who missed all last season after 'Tommy John surgery' - was back in top form as he used a sharp-breaking slider and a slow curve to his advantage all game long before being lifted in the last of the seventh.
   "He had reached his pitch count, and I have been watching that closely with him," said Crusader head coach and former big leaguer Tim Niehart. "Two season's ago he had that surgery and went through 16-months of rehab work, so his pitch count is very important."
   The Buffs displayed some shaky infield defense behind Barrett (3-2) as four of the first eight hits recorded by North Greenville never made it past the pitcher's mound and a few others didn't get out of the infield.
   "I take responsibility for this one," said Clark. "Barrett threw something like 140 pitches his last time out and I wasn't sure I should have used him at all. But he is a competitor and he took the ball even though he looked tired."
   Barrett pitched four innings giving up nine hits and four runs (all earned) as he saw North Greenville take a four-to-one lead. Barrett gave way to reliever Chad Davis is the fifth.
   The Buffs scored their only run in the first as Shealy and Pat Gould singled at the top of the Milligan lineup and Richard Markland's single plated Shealy, who wound up finishing the day with five hits in six official at-bats.
   The Crusaders scored a run in the first, followed by two more in the second to take the early lead that Guest made stand up. Ramon Kelly was three-for-three with three RBI in the nightcap and leadoff hitter Matt Rollins and catcher Daniel Rochester were each two-for-four.
   "We needed that kind of effort today," commented Niehart. "We have been struggling to keep leads, and I was leery of taking Guest out because we have fallen apart with leads of late. In fact we had a 14-run lead in one game and I didn't feel safe in that one either."