Lady Buffs sweep VI

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent
krichardson@starhq.com

   Celia Henline and Brandi Waddle combined to pitch a classic duel as the Milligan College Lady Buffs completed a doubleheader sweep of AAC rival Virginia Intermont at Anglin Field on Friday afternoon.
   But that's an over-simplification. It was a classic in every sense of the word. Henline had an astounding 12 strikeouts against a very good hitting Milligan club. 
   "She was incredible," Waddle said of her counterpart after the 1-0, eight-inning Lady Buff win. "She's very fast and she changes up and breaks the ball well. It was great being out there in such an exciting game."
   Waddle wasn't so bad either. She had entered game one in the top of the third when starting pitcher Traci Harrison started off a little rough, surrendering three runs in two-plus innings. Waddle finished and won the first game -- in a 6-5 decision -- before taking on Henline in the thrilling second contest.
   "They have a very fine team," said Henline, downplaying her performance. "It didn't end the way I would have liked, but we played as hard as we could possibly play, and left it all out there."
   Celia's sister, Rachael, was more impressed with Celia's performance. "She was awesome," said Rachael. "We played with so much enthusiasm today, and in both games, no letups. I'm very proud of Celia, and very proud of the way we played as a team today. This is the most pumped up we've been all year."
   And it showed. The VI dugout was in constant chatter as the James Nelson coached Cobras fought tooth and nail against the Lady Buffs.
   "We had our chance, that's for sure," said Nelson. "They have a great team, and we feel that we're becoming a very good team. I can't say enough about Celia, the way she has pitched. She's been a great addition to our team.
   "We needed a key hit, a play or two and we might win the second one. The season's gone that way to this point.  Coach Holly does a tremendous job, and it truly was a great experience, playing against such a well-coached team."
   Coach Holly was pleased, but stopped short of declaring his squad playoff ready.
   "Today proved just how important it is to get outdoors and practice," he said. "They came in here and gave us all we wanted, which demonstrates the balance and competitiveness of this conference. But we did fight very hard in both games, especially in that great second game." 
   "I was very impressed with the freshman from Virginia Beach, with the way she worked. Coach Nelson has a really good one," Holly, whose team improved to 7-1, 4-0 (in conference play), continued. "We didn't execute some things very well, but we made some big plays when we needed them most."
   Big Stone Gap's Rebecca Gilley was again instrumental in the Buffs' win.
   "Just doing my job," downplayed the evasive Gilley. She made a sensational catch of a deep line-drive after Rachael Henline had dropped a beautiful bunt advancing "special base runner," Lindsey Raettig in the top of the first extra inning (A runner is granted second base to begin extra innings). 
   Henline advanced to third just ahead of the throw of a passed ball by Lady Buffs' catcher Ashley Mashburn. Coach Holly appealed the called "safe," but to no avail, leaving runners on second and third with? Gilley's catch prevented the two base runners from scoring.
   Courtney Ruth scored the winning run on a solid line drive hit by first game starter, Harrison, but declined to take extra credit for the score. "It was simple," stated Ruth. "I was under special orders from Coach (Holly)." 
   Special orders? "Sure," Ruth said. "He told me, "Score, Courtney."
   Harrison simply said: "It's a team game, and I was glad to come through with the hit. I stayed with the ball, and managed to get enough of the ball to drive it."
   But there was much more to the amazing extra inning than Gilley's catch and the call at third. On the first pitch following the close call at third, and preceding the catch by Gilley, Raettig attempted to make home plate on another passed ball.  Mashburn retrieved the ball and tossed to Waddle for the tag.
   The play was very close, but Raettig was called out, setting off another round of protests and appeals, this time by Coach Nelson. "I think Coach had a good argument, her being tagged where she was (on her rear), sure made it look like she made it home safely.  But we won't dwell on it.  We know we needed to play better."
   VI catcher Nikki Stewart took the high ground, putting the game in its proper perspective.
   "We'll never know what might have happened had she been called safe, but that's softball," she said. "That game, with everyone giving their all.... It's supposed to be played like that. They're a very good team, but we proved to them and to ourselves that we can play with the best."
   Milligan shortstop Shelby Banion summed it up well: "Two good teams going at it, giving their all -- excellent pitching, some timely hitting and the catch by Rebecca, the solid hit by Traci and the good base running by Courtney. What more could anyone ask for?"