Milligan College baseball coach Nathan Meade hopes his team comes around with the weather.
The Buffs are currently sitting seventh in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, with a 5-7 record. They’re 15-17 overall after winning seven of their first eight games.
“We started out pretty hot, then hit a little lull there,” Meade said Thursday. “We’ve just been doing things in spurts. We’ve got a competitive league and are beating each other up. We’re sitting down near the bottom right now but are just one weekend away from getting back into it.”
The Buffs likely won’t catch Tennessee Wesleyan anytime soon. The defending national champs are 10-2 in the league and hold a two-game lead over Virginia Intermont.
Wesleyan (28-12) is ranked ninth in the NAIA poll this week.
“They’ve got a real good team, again,” said Meade. “When you’re the defending national champ, everybody is gunning for you. That’s what I respect about it — the way they’re playing with that pressure on them.”
The Buffs hope to make up some ground this weekend when they host St. Andrews, which is tied for fourth at 7-8.
They’ve started coming on offensively and are hitting a collective .313 for the season. That’s tied with Bryan for the lead in the AAC.
“We hit a two-week skid there where we couldn’t buy a hit,” said Meade, “but we’re coming around. We’re swinging it well.”
Catcher Brandon Malone continues to lead the team in runs batted in (30), homers (4) and doubles (10). The sophomore from Maryville is batting .350.
“Brandon has had kind of a coming-out party this year,” said Meade. “I think people in the baseball community knew of his ability coming out of high school. It’s really starting to show.”
Corey McPherson, who played at East Tennessee State last season, has been a nice addition to the roster. He’s hitting .368 with 19 RBI.
Others putting up good offensive numbers: Luke Kirk (.351, 18 RBI), Tyree Jefferies (.343, 19), Blake Buck (.337) and Sam Tarlton (.330).
“It’s hard to single out one guy, because we’ve got several that are playing pretty well,” said Meade. “Corey McPherson is just a heady player. Sam Tarlton, from over at Crockett, is doing a good job. And Luke Kirk, again, is as steady as it gets. You know what you’re going to get every day out.”
The softball team has hit its stride lately, sweeping its last three opponents to improve to 8-4 in conference. That’s good for third place.
“We’ve sort of turned it around a little bit,” said coach Wes Holly. “The weather had gotten better and we’ve been playing more regularly. There at one point we had played 14 games and had been out on the field to practice only two or three times.
“We’re still working on our chemistry.”
The Lady Buffs were picked third in the preseason poll, so they’re right on course. It doesn’t look like anybody in the AAC has much for Reinhardt, the preseason favorite which is 14-0.
The Eagles swept Milligan 3-1 and 7-5 on March 16.
“We’ve played them closer than anybody else,” said Holly. “I think VI is capable of beating them, and us or Wesleyan. The tournament is going to be interesting.”
Holly likes the pop his offense has been showing lately.
“We’re starting to get the long ball,” he said. “Our first baseman (Catherine McGinness) has hit four home runs in the last two double-headers. Emily Biggs has hit two.
“We’re also getting clutch hits now, and we weren’t doing that early. We were putting men on base and not getting them in, which was frustrating for our pitching staff.”
The team’s ace, Chancli Connatser, has won her last four outings to improve to 5-7.
“Her conference ERA is like 1 ½,” said Holly. “She’s in a good groove.”
The Lady Buffs host St. Andrews for a double-header Saturday.
About the only thing that can stop the women’s tennis team is the weather.
The Lady Buffs saw their non-conference match Thursday at Lindsey Wilson cancelled by a cold rain. At 12-2, they’ll try again Saturday when they host Barton College.
Coach Ryan Reynolds’ team defeated 19th-ranked Campbellsville 6-3 on Wednesday. Grace Sarver, Rachel Hodas, Sarah Rainwater and Ahmee Kelly all picked up singles victories.
Sprinter Kevin Mowatt was named AAC track athletic of the week on Monday.
The junior from Montego Bay, Jamaica had a strong outing in the Winthrop Invitational, placing 11th in the 200 and 18th in the 100 against mostly NCAA Division I competition.
Milligan returns to action next week at the Sea Ray Relays in Knoxville.