KINGSPORT, TN- Senior Kimberly Robinson once again turned in a strong pitching performance to help the Milligan College softball team punch its ticket to the NAIA Softball National Championship on Saturday afternoon. Milligan defeated Tennessee Wesleyan 2-0 in the first game of the day, and while Kassi Butcher turned in a gem of her own to give Milligan a chance in the second game of the day, Milligan was defeated by No. 16 Reinhardt 5-4 in the AAC tournament championship.
Milligan earned the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament runner-up, and will play again in the next few weeks at the NAIA National Championship Opening Round.
Robinson continued her outstanding tournament with a scoreless effort over 4 2/3 innings against Tennessee Wesleyan. Facing elimination, she allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out two as Milligan jumped on top of TWU early with two runs in the first.
Erica Roller and Kacie Skeen had the RBI’s in the opening frame. Roller drove in Robinson before Skeen drove in Jenna Gilbert, both on groundouts. Robinson had started the game off with a walk prior to a Gilbert double to right field on the second pitch to her. Although that was the only scoring for Milligan, it proved to be all the Buffs needed as Robinson and Butcher combined for a shutout of the fourth-seeded Bulldogs.
Butcher closed out the final 2 1/3 innings with a scoreless, and hitless, effort herself. Butcher walked only one and faced the minimum as Milligan clinched a spot in the championship versus Reinhardt, needing two wins to claim the AAC tournament title.
Butcher then made the start against Reinhardt and turned in one of her best efforts of her career. She went six strong innings with four hits, a walk and three runs. Butcher held Reinhardt, which hits at a .347 average as a team this season, to only one hit over the first five innings and two hits over the first six.
Butcher started the bottom of the seventh, with Milligan up 4-0, with a couple of hits and a walk before Reinhardt rallied for five runs to take the lead and win via a walkoff. Brianna Snyder came in to relieve Butcher with the bases loaded and nobody out in the inning and managed an immediate strikeout and groundout, but the Buffs were unable to close the game. Reinhardt drew a couple more walks and eventually won it on a walkoff single to right field from Reinhardt’s Maddie Evans.
Rachel Coffey had put the Buffs on top early against Reinhardt by scoring Madison Grindstaff on an infield single in the second inning. Four innings later Milligan added three more runs as Grindstaff drove in Gilbert with a single and Cayley Shoemaker singled to center to score Skeen and Grindstaff.
In all, Grindstaff went 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs versus Reinhardt. Gilbert went 2-for-4 with a run. Roller had a two-hit effort in the game versus Tennessee Wesleyan, going 2-for-3.
With its ticket to the NAIA Softball National Championship, Milligan will play Monday-Wednesday, May 15-17, in the Opening Round. Full tournament information with full tournament information, including bracket, start times and location, will be announced later by the NAIA.
Courtesy: Milligan Athletics