By Rick Sheek
With a month left in the regular season, veteran Milligan College softball coach Wes Holly gives a high grade for his stable.
The Lady Buffs swept Bryan in an Appalachian Athletic Conference doubleheader on Thursday at Anglin Field. Milligan prevailed by 7-3 and 4-3 decisions.
At 18-12, 5-1 in the AAC, the Buffs have the most victories in the league.
“I was proud of them,” Holly said of his players. “That was an overall good team effort, so to be young (one senior), we’re playing pretty good ball right now.”
Chancli Connatser recorded both victories on the mound. The sophomore started each game, was relieved, and on each occasion had to re-enter to help ensure the outcome.
“We definitely need to get Chancli some help pitching,” Holly said. “We can’t throw her every game. We’ll have to step up and give her some help.”
The finale saw Milligan hold a 4-1 advantage heading in the seventh inning. Sierra Plese was handed the ball in relief.
A Lady Lion crossed on an error, and there were two baserunners on with one out. Plese had hit a batter and served up a single prior to the miscue, so she got the hook.
Connatser recorded a strikeout. Lauren Matthews lined a run-scoring single to trim the deficit to one run, before a groundout ended the affair.
“We made it exciting,” Holly said. “I was proud of the girls. They played a lot better today than they did yesterday (split with VI).
“Those were conference games, and give credit to Bryan — they’ve improved since last year. We struggled a little bit with that last game, because we didn’t hit the ball hardly as well we did in that first game.”
Connatser hurled the first five innings of the opener. Megan Nicol was pulled after walking the lead-off batter of the sixth, and Connatser returned to finish out that inning as the Lions (8-22, 1-3) pulled within 5-2 on a Britney Hurst run-scoring double.
Milligan regrouped and pushed its lead to 7-2. Maleah Wolfenbarger ripped a run-scoring single, and a passed ball plated a score.
Samantha Mahala pitched the seventh for the Buffs. She gave up a run-scoring double to Courtney Combs, in scattering three hits and walking one.
Connatser yielded three hits, no earned runs and fanned seven with a walk.
In that contest, Milligan’s Krista Lambdin batted 3 for 4. Sarah Arrowood was 2 for 3 and Wolfenbarger went 2 for 4 as the Buffs delivered 12 hits.
Wolfenbarger gave Milligan the first-inning lead with a run-scoring single. An error in the second plated a Bryan run to tie it up.
In the fourth, Camille Olvey belted a two-run triple, Lambdin slapped a run-scoring single and Arrowood’s run-scoring double made it 5-1.
Lambden stole three bases in the opener.
Bryan’s Kirstie Jennings went 2 for 3 at the plate and reached safely in all three at-bats.
Connatser, in 62⁄3 innings of the finale, was touched for nine hits and yielded one earned run. She struck out four and walked two with one wild pitch.
The Buffs managed just one hit in the second outing.
Olvey’s sacrifice fly in the third put Milligan up 1-0. The Lions had stranded a runner on third base in the top half after Wolfenbarger (at third base) made a diving catch to retire Bryan.
Taylor Yates’ solo home run, her fourth of the season, knotted the contest at 1-apiece in the fourth.
Wolfenbarger unleashed a two-run single in the fourth to push Milligan’s advantage to 3-1. A Buff crossed on an error in the sixth to make it 4-1.
For Bryan, Jennings each hit 2 for 3. Also for Bryan, Yates was 2 for 4.
“I was trying to get all of the players an opportunity to get in,” Holly said. “When they get in, we expect them to perform. If they don’t perform, why then we turn around and pretty well had the ball game under control — and then put it back to where we’re subject to lose the ball game if we don’t do our job.”
Bryan 010 001 1 — 3 6 1
Milligan 100 402 x — 7 12 3
Love and Hurst. Connatser, Nicol (5), Connatser (5), Mahala (7) and Arrowood. W—Connatser (12-7). L—Love (4-9).
Bryan 000 100 2 — 3 10 0
Milligan 001 201 x — 4 1 1
Campbell, Love (5) and Hurst. Connatser, Plese (7), Connatser (7) and Arrowood. W—Connatser (13-7). L—Campbell (3-13). HRs—Bryan: Yates (4).