Lady Buffs seize share of first place in AAC

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent

   Coach Wes Holly of the Milligan College Lady Buffaloes is a quick study.
   "We hadn't seen them play so we ran up the other night and got a look at them," said Coach Holly of University of Virginia at Wise, which Milligan swept by 5-2, 3-1 scores on Tuesday at Anglin Field.
   Well, Coach Holly did a lot with just a little time to work with. Right fielder Leah Fritts from Knoxville agreed.
   "Coach had us positioned just right," said Fritts. "They hit the ball awfully hard a few times, but we were often right there."
   Fellow outfielder and Asheville, N.C., native, Amanda Vernor concurred. "We were able to make plays when it really counted," she said. "I think we've come back together as a team. The changes Coach made are helping."
   Those changes Vernor referred to were more of position changes rather than promotions or demotions in personnel.
   "We didn't necessarily bench anybody," said Coach Holly, "but we just felt that we had to get not only the best players on the field at the same time, but in the positions where they could best help our team.
   "Shelby (Banion), yes we'll surely miss her, her being a senior, but she is so versatile, such a team player. We moved her to catcher because she's just so reliable, so steady back there. Plus she's such a leader, by her knowledge and by example. "
   Banion was in her usual form in game one, and though she was 0-for-1 in at bats, her first plate appearance resulted in her scoring Milligan's first run after drawing a walk. Banion walked twice in the game, but as always she was very steady on defense, which of late has been behind the plate.
   Milligan's pitching hasn't been bad either. Brandy Waddle continued her winning ways, holding the Cavaliers to two total runs in a victory for the Lady Buffs.
   "I had great defense behind me," said Waddle of her 15th win this season. Wise also has a very good team, and we know we have to play them a couple more games later on, so we don't think this is over by any means."
   But it does look better for the Lady Buffs. Before Tuesday's sweep by the Buffs (35-11), the Cavaliers had only lost one conference game this season. Now the two teams share the league lead with identical 21-3 league marks.
   "Well, we're a lot better off this evening than we were this morning," said Coach Holly. "But we know there's still a lot of ball to be played. Wise has an outstanding team and we feel fortunate to have swept them. Our players have really come together and played well since our not-so-great spring break week, in which we lost four games."
   Since then the Buffs have won 17 of 18 games.
   Heather Gentry scored both of the Cavalier runs in game one, and had one hit.
   For Milligan, former Elizabethton Lady Cyclone star Sarah Smith had one hit and scored the final run, and Waddle helped her own cause with one base hit, a walk and scored a run. Bristol's Ellen Scoots had a single and scored, as did Fritts.
   Game 2
   Traci Harrison pitched into the fifth inning before giving way to Waddle as the Lady Buffaloes finished their sweep of the Cavaliers of Virginia Wise.
   Virginia Wise managed to score one run off Harrison in the second inning, when Melissa Barnes tripled and scored on Krystal Showers' sacrifice in the second inning. Barnes is the mother of Latavian Dyles, born 27 August of last year.
   "He's not here today, but he's usually here, cheering me on," said Barnes.
   Barnes hopes to coach after graduating in 2006, but until then there's a lot of ball left to play.
   "We'll come back and give it our best shot," said Barnes. "They're awfully good, and their pitching is awesome."
   "She sure can run the bases," said Milligan head coach Wes Holly. "We were able to keep them in check with some good defensive positioning, but they can jump on you in a hurry. They've been scoring a lot of runs lately; but again, our pitching was really crisp today."
   And ask about the change of pitchers in game two.
   "Well, Traci was pitching really well, and it certainly wasn't a case of her not performing. We just felt that a change of pace might help at that particular time. But, and Traci and Brandy both know this: I have complete confidence in both of them. We just wanted to give them a different look, and this time it worked."
   Holly seemed to be making all the right calls in the double header. A great example: first baseman Brooke Davis was at bat, and with a one and two count the left-handed batter had just fouled the third consecutive pitch off her right foot.
   "She did appear in a little pain," said Coach Holly. "I felt that I should have a word or two with her."
   "A little?" questioned Davis, but with a smile. "Yes, it did smart a bit, and I was glad to have him call the time out to talk strategy."
   The result: Davis lined a base hit up the middle to drive home the Buffs 'third run.
   "They were so good," said Wise pitcher April Dorman, who also pitched a tremendous game. "We didn't get enough base runners to compete with such a good team, but that's easier said than done. We have to get back to playing to our full potential, but they have great pitching, defense, and in fact they're just very sound throughout."