Rams put Buffaloes in must-win situation

By Rebecca Pierson
STAR Staff

   JOHNSON CITY -- The Milligan Buffalos were defeated on Wednesday in the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament semifinals winners' round, by the Bluefield Rams, 7-5.
   The Buffs pitcher, Jacob McAllister, opened up the game by throwing a perfect inning.
   "I don't think we did very good base running today," the Buffs head coach Danny Clark said. "We made three or four bad base running mistakes. It was gambling. It was playing hard, and I am going to take that. It was just not real smart in the times that it happened.
   "I thought McAllister did well today," he said. "He hurt his back in the bunt play when he and Chandler bumped into each other. He had some good outings against [Brevard] earlier in the season, and I thought the match was a good match up. I thought Taylor came in there and did his job. He threw it across the plate."
   The game would go scoreless until the third when Reggie Huguet ran in for Bluefield. The Buffs' Will Little opened up the top of the third with a single to short stop Javier Rodriguez. Nathan Meade the hit another single, followed by a drive to left field by David Rusaw, which was caught out.
   Dustin Price had another center-field fly that was caught out, but Little managed to sneak in the Buffs' first run. Kory Kinnear then hit a double off the center-field wall and an earned an RBI that brought the score to 2-1 at the top of the fourth.
   The Rams' Blake Williams opened up the inning tying the score with a home run over the right wall. Jon Booth then hit a double. After McAllister walked Corey Shreeve, Huguet popped one to right field and opened the door for Booth to run home, but Rodriguez's out would close the inning with Bluefield up by one.
   The fifth inning was a stalemate for both teams offensively, but Milligan would score two more runs at the top of the sixth to regain the lead. Nathan Chandler and Ben Huff both earned singles with hits to the shortstop. From there Alex Mora hit a line drive to left field for a single and an RBI.
   Bluefield would then change out starting pitcher Danny Henderson for Derek Fridley. Little then bunted the ball, but was called out at first. Meade would then hit a single, opening the door for Huff to run home bringing the lead back into Milligan territory.
   Huff earned another run in the seventh to bring the score to 5-3, but an eighth-inning rally by the Rams locked in the game.
   Robby Lanham hit the left-field fence for a double, followed by Jeff Johnson's hit to right field that opened the door for Lanham home. Cecil Hagwood would then bunt the ball. McAllister and Moore would collide trying to retrieve the lose ball, which hurt both players. Hagwood would get a double out of the play still in motion. McAllister then sat down and was replaced by Adam Taylor.
   Booth then earned an RBI, followed by a drive to left field by Chris Quesenberry, in which Booth and Hagwood would both earn runs.
   Milligan had an opportunity in the bottom of the ninth to take back the game. Chandler and Huff both hit singles. Then Brad Hitch would bunt to try and load up the bases, but a miscue by freshman runner Cody Whitlock caught him out on home. Little then grounded the ball to the short stop, but the play at second caught Hitch out. Meade would then have the last hit of the evening caught out in right center, leaving two men left on base.
   "It wasn't designed that way," Clark said of the ninth inning. "We were doing a sacrifice bunt. I and the runner mis-communicated. He thought it was a squeeze.
   "Obviously, we wouldn't be squeezing down two, but that is part of the game," he said. "I take full responsibility for that. I thought we were on the same page, but he thought it was something else. I'll take the blame because I didn't prepare him for it."
   Milligan will continue play today at noon against Union, as it hopes to stay alive in the tournament to earn the third position in the region.
   "Obviously, we have to win out," Clark said.
   "We have been in two tight ball games, and we just keep finding ways to win," Bluefield head coach Billy Berry said. "I am just real proud of our guys right now. We feel like we still have some good arms left. We are just going to have to come in tomorrow ready to play, like we have done the past two days."