KINGSPORT, Tenn. (April 29, 2016) – It took a strong start offensively and some timely outs at the end, but the fifth-seeded Milligan College softball team is heading to the NAIA Regionals thanks to a 6-5 victory over second-seeded Bryan College Friday at the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament and Brickyard Park. Milligan later lost to AAC regular-season and now tournament champion Reinhardt University 7-1, but still earned the automatic bid to regionals via finishing as the AAC tournament runner-up.
Natalie Sheffey got things started against the Lady Lions with a solo home run on a 2-2 count in the bottom of the first. Next, a bunt single by Caroline Testerman, a walk by Sheffey and a bunt hit by Jessica Wheelock loaded the bases for Milligan with nobody out in the third.
The trio all came in to score on an RBI single to right by Kimberly Robinson and then a two-out knock up the middle by Samantha Lilley as the Buffs went ahead 4-0. Cayley Shoemaker, meanwhile, held the Bryan offense to only one hit and no walks through the first three innings until the Lady Lions scored three runs with two out, only two of which were earned, to get back into the game at 4-3.
It would not be the final time Bryan would get back within one run as after Milligan went back ahead by three on a two-RBI double by Wheelock in the next half inning, the Lady Lions scored with two out in the sixth and again with two out in the seventh.
After both of Bryan’s two out runs in the final two innings, it was Kassi Butcher who got out of both jams and earned her team-leading fourth save of the season. Butcher struck out the only batter she faced in the sixth with the tying run standing only 60 feet away, and then recorded a groundout with both the tying and go-ahead runs on base to end the game.
Butcher gave up three hits and one run in 1.1 innings and Shoemaker gave up four hits, three total runs and two earned runs in 3.2 innings, but it was Jessica Goodson (12-8) who got the win with two innings of four hit, one run work in middle relief.
Down 3-0 after two innings against Reinhardt, the Buffs got on the board in the third with an RBI by Kacie Skeen to score Wheelock, but that was all she wrote as Milligan went down in order in each of the final three innings. Robinson (2-3) was saddled with the loss with four hits, three runs and two walks in her 1.1 inning.
Wheelock batted 3-for-3 against Bryan with two RBI’s, one run scored, a walk and a double, and was then 1-for-3 with a run against Reinhardt for a combined 4-for-6 effort. Sheffey and Lilley were also perfect from the plate against Bryan as Sheffey was 2-for-2 with three runs, an RBI, two walks and her seventh homer of the season, and Lilley was 2-for-2 with the two RBI’s. Lastly, Testerman added two runs and a stolen base against the Lady Lions.
The win over Bryan was the second of the season for Milligan, who split with the Lady Lions during the regular season when Bryan was receiving votes in the national top-25 poll.
Milligan (28-18) will now take its automatic berth to the NAIA Regionals, which are set for Monday-Wednesday, May 9-11.