Milligan pitchers dominate in Lady Buff sweep

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   The Buffalo softball team clinched two conference wins over the Union Lady Bulldogs Sunday afternoon to bring their league record to 12-2. Milligan shut out Union 14-0 in the first game, and held on for a 3-0 victory in game two.
   "They played pretty well today. I was really tickled with our pitching," said Milligan coach Wes Holly. "We hit the ball really well the first game and scored quite a few runs.
   "The second game, we didn't hit the ball as well, but we made some lineup changes trying to give some people some playing time so we can be ready down the stretch," Holly said. "We got a little reckless base running in that second game there. I felt like it cost us some runs and that's why the score was so low."
   In game one, Milligan jumped out to a two-run lead in the second inning. Megan Aldridge reached with a double and scored on Rebecca Gilley's double, and Gilley scored on Leah Fritts' single.
   The Lady Buffs added six runs in the third inning. Shelby Banion led the inning off with a single and scored on Brooke Davis' double, then Ashley Mashburn reached first with a walk.
   From there, Aldridge reached safely on a fielder's choice as Davis was out at third. Gilley scored Mashburn with an RBI single.
   Junior pitcher Brandy Waddle was hit by a pitch from Union's pitcher, Monica Valdez, to load the bases. Fritts' RBI single brought Aldridge home to score.
   On Sarah Smith's single, Gilley and Waddle both scored.
   Fritts scored as Amanda Verner reached first safely as Jessica Suttles committed an error at shortstop.
   In the fourth inning, Milligan put another six runs on the board. With one out, three straight singles from Aldridge, Gilley and Waddle started the rally, as Aldridge scored on Waddle's single.
   Fritts reached as Gilley was out at third on a fielder's choice. Two more singles from Smith and Verner added two more Lady Buffs to the bases. On Verner's single, Waddle and Fritts scored.
   Banion reached base as Sara Moberly was charged an error as she could not field the hard hit ball that could not fielded down the third base line, on the play, Smith scored. Davis stepped up and allowed Banion and Verner to score with her two run single.
   In the victory for Milligan, Waddle pitched a complete game shutout with only one hit. She struck out four in her five innings of work with no walks.
   At the plate for the Lady Buffs, Gilley went 3-for-3 with a double, scored two runs and had two RBIs, Leah Fritts was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs, and Smith went 2-for-4 and scored one run.
   In game two, Milligan starting pitcher Traci Harrison pitched for six innings and held the Lady 'Dogs to four hits. Waddle took the mound for the Lady Buffs in the sixth, allowing only one hit for the rest of the game.
   At the top of Milligan's lineup, Smith belted out a double to left field, and rounded home plate as Courtney Ruth went out at second on a fielder's choice.
   Both sides had a quick second inning, with freshman Jamie Jacobus knocking a single for Union, and Milligan sending only three to the plate.
   For Milligan in the third, Allyson Horner took first base with a hit to center field, and advanced to third on a catcher's error during Smith's at-bat. A wild pitch sent Horner home for Milligan's second run, and a hit from Smith, who batted 3-for-4, put her on first base.
   Up next for the Lady Buffs was Ruth, 2-of-4 from the plate. Smith stole second and third, and a single from Ruth sent her home for three runs.
   "Overall, I thought they played really well today, and I was pleased with them," Holly said. "Those were two conference games, so that's two big wins for us. We're in the right track right now if we can just stay focused."
   In the top of the fourth, senior Amanda Lewis got a base hit for the Lady Bulldogs, and sophomore shortstop Julia Yates hit a single immediately after. However, two fly outs and a throw from Smith to first baseman Brooke Davis ended the inning for Union, leaving two runners stranded on base.
   "The first game we didn't work as a team, and the second game, we came together and kind of brought it back," said Union assistant coach Jackie Buchanan, who was temporarily filling in for head coach Tim Curry. "We just need to hit. We're really young, and we only have two seniors."
   For Milligan, Harrison, Smith, and Ruth each got a single in the bottom of the fourth, but Union's outfielders did their job, forcing the Lady Buffs to leave all three runners on base.
   "We thought it would be a good game. We gave a little bit more competition than the first game, especially in hitting," Buchanan said. "We went from a really slow pitcher yesterday to a quick pitcher today, and we knew it was going to be like that. We knew it was going to be hard to change up."
   Lewis, batting 2-of-4 for Union, hit a double in the sixth, and Megan Aldridge and Horner had singles for Milligan, but both teams' defense held and the rest of the innings remained scoreless. Harrison took the win for Milligan, and Jessica Suttles took the loss.
   Milligan will face Lees-McRae College at 2 p.m. on Tuesday in Banner Elk, NC.
   "They're NCAA Division 2, which will probably help us get prepared for Brevard," said Coach Holly. "Brevard sneaked up on us two games a couple weeks ago. That's our only two losses.
   "We have them here Thursday starting at two, so the girls are sort of getting ready to see if we can't go back and do a little bit with Brevard and change the outcome of those two games."
   The Milligan skipper is optimistic about the season. "Right now, it's probably a three or four team race," Holly said. "Brevard is playing good ball. They have two losses, we have two losses. Wesleyan has two losses and UVA-Wise has one loss.
   "That's why I've been encouraging the girls, saying you're just going to have to stay focused, play the game inning by inning, and keep your head in the ball game so we don't make mental mistakes."