Buffs stand tall after brushing off Brevard

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY--When Tina Turner said "We don't need another a hero," she must not have been in the situation Milligan star Dustin Price was in just before 1 a.m. Saturday morning.
   A two-out single in the bottom of the ninth by the former Science Hill standout scored Scott Shealy to give the Buffaloes a 4-3 victory over Brevard College and also an Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament Championship.
   "It doesn't get any better than this in baseball," Price said. "I had 100 percent confidence. If you were to put a gun to my head and said 'are you going to get a hit right here,' I would have said 'yeah.' That's how much confidence I had. Last year I think I had two or three game-winning hits.
   "This year I haven't had any, and I just thought it would be a perfect situation for me to get my first of this year."
   After the first two Milligan batters were retired by Brevard pitcher Joey Cress, the Buffs looked like they were going to have to win it in extra innings.
   That's when Shealy, like he had all tournament, stepped up for Milligan. Shealy singled to start what would be the game-winning rally.
   Will Little then walked to put Shealy in scoring position, then Price came through with his heroics.
   It was extremely special for Price being able to do this in his hometown, and on the field he played his high school ball.
   "It's awesome," Price said. "It hasn't sunk in yet. I'm still shaking."
   The sophomore ended up making it special for the seniors, including former Elizabethton High School standout Pat Gould.
   "It's a great feeling," Gould said. "It's been a long haul for us. We hadn't won a championship here, so it feels really good to get the first one here."
   Said Milligan head coach Danny Clark: "We've been second twice, so one of the goals of our senior class was to win the tournament. Obviously, it's nice from the standpoint of going out there and actually doing it, instead of just coming in second all the time."
   The person on deck when Price came up with the game winning hit was former Elizabethton High star Ben Whittemore. If Price had walked, Whittemore would have had the chance to be the hero.
   But Whittemore wasn't upset at all that Price stole the spotlight.
   "I'm just glad we won, man!," an elated Whittemore said. "I would have gotten it done if we had to, but daggone it Price was the one that came through today. You've got to love that."
   Whittemore actually could have been the hero in the bottom of the seventh after Price, who had four hits in the game, doubled to give the former Cyclone an opportunity to drive him in.
   It wasn't meant to be, as pitcher Chris Shockley pinch-ran for Price, and was picked off at second.
   "That didn't work very good," Whittemore said. "Shockley is a pitcher, he doesn't run bases. We just needed a pinch-runner, because we thought Price pulled his hammy. But hey it worked out. Price is the man tonight.
   The Buffs had to win five elimination games in two days, including a 14-5 victory over Brevard earlier in the night.
   That means a depleted Milligan pitching staff deserves a lot of the credit.
   One guy that pitched well in both games was Rob Maynard, who came back strong after struggling at the first of the year.
   "Rob really stepped up in this tournament," Whittemore said. "He really was on. His ball was sinking. He pitched almost every game it seemed like. For somebody to keep coming out there and battling the way he did, that's really impressive. You really have to take your hat off to him."
   Chad Davis also came up big in the second game, as he retired the side in the top of the ninth to get the Buffaloes' fans on their feet and also gave Milligan a momentum boost.
   "The pitching staff was definitely what got us through," Price said. "We got into the losers bracket, so we've had to play five games in the last two days. That's been tough. We're all tired. The pitching staff kept the other teams in check, and didn't let them score a lot of runs."
   The 'Buffs will now advance to the regionals, but not before celebrating a sweet victory for Clark. Clark was an assistant at Brevard before becoming the head coach at Milligan a few years back.
   Clark thought just winning the tournament was special enough.
   "Just winning the tournament was our goal," Clark said. "We didn't care who we played, just as long as we won the tournament."