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Milligan notes: Speedy, potentially explosive softball team begins 2019 campaign Sunday

Daniel Manget and Kyle Stafford • Feb 7, 2019 at 4:47 PM

After earning back-to-back trips to the NAIA Opening Round in 2016 and 2017, the Milligan College softball team is all geared up and ready for the 2019 season, which starts this weekend.

The Lady Buffs begin their season Sunday with a doubleheader at Mars Hill University.

Thirty-first year head coach Wes Holly shared some insight on how his team has been doing preseason and what the upcoming season looks to bring.

“With the (rainy) weather, all of our work has been indoors right now but I’m pleased with where we are,” he said. “We have done a good bit of hitting. If weather cooperates, we can get out and get defensive work done. We should be in good shape, but the real test will be when we play games and get into competition to see how the girls will perform.”

Holly’s 2019 roster features five seniors, six juniors, six sophomores and four freshmen. Senior Kassi Butcher put together a solid 2018 campaign and will be looked upon to lead Milligan’s pitching staff.

Butcher posted an earned run average of 2.84 last season, winning 11 games and tossing 10 complete games. She also hit at a .289 clip in 19 games.

Sophomores Morgan Overholser, Neelee Griffith and Savannah Nocera will be returning award-winners as the trio of 2018 freshmen were on the All-Appalachian Athletic Conference team. Overholser hit .308 and had an on-base percentage of .375 while Griffith batted .344 with a team-leading 10 dingers. Nocera hit .342 with 26 hits, three doubles, one home run and seven RBIs.

“We have six returning seniors to go along with six juniors and 10 underclassmen,” Holly said. “With our incoming freshmen, I think overall we’ll be pretty talented. I think our defense and our hitting from what I see right now will be pretty adequate. I think the key will be with our pitching.”

On the pitching staff, Holly noted the Buffs have been a little banged up but still have plenty of depth.

“Kassi (Butcher) is back healthy, Jacquelyn Jenkins has shown a lot of improvement, and we also think we will get some help out of Kendyl McCollister and Brianna Snyder,” Holly said. “In total, we hope to have six healthy pitchers, so we hope on a given day we will have at least a couple of those on.”

BASKETBALL SEASON IN THE HOME STRETCH

The women’s basketball team continues to roll right along as it has now won six straight heading into a crucial AAC contest against Bryan College this Saturday inside Steve Lacy Fieldhouse. It will be senior day for the Lady Buffs as they look to gain ground on the Lions, who currently sit two games ahead of Milligan at the top of the conference standings.

Senior Sarah Robinson has been one of the catalysts for Milligan this season by leading the team with 12.5 points, three assists and 1.3 steals per game. Robinson is also averaging 7.2 rebounds per game, which is second best on the team behind fellow senior Mackenzie Raizor’s 8.9.

On the men’s side, Milligan has won two in a row and remain two games back of Montreat in the conference race. The Buffs will look to make it three straight victories Saturday as they also host Bryan for senior day.

Senior Aaron Levarity has led the way for Milligan, pacing the AAC in rebounds with 12.6 per game and ranking second in scoring at 18.9 points. Levarity also leads the AAC in double-doubles with 19 and ranks within the top 10 of six different national statistical categories.

Tip-offs for Saturday’s contests are set for 2 and 4 p.m. Both squads play their final home games of the season at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse when they host Point University on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

BASEBALL SET TO HOST TOURNAMENT

After dropping the first series of the season last weekend on the road to USC Beaufort, the Milligan baseball team plays at home for the first time in 2019. The Buffs will host the Clash of Conferences tournament Friday-Sunday at TVA Credit Union Stadium in Johnson City.

Milligan faces Huntington Friday at 2 and 5 p.m., and then on Saturday the Buffs take on Rio Grande at 4 p.m. and Concordia at 7 p.m.

SWIMMING AT AAC CHAMPIONSHIPS

Led by sophomore Margaret Halloran, the Milligan College swim team looks for a strong performance at the AAC championships that kicked off Thursday and will wrap up Saturday. It was a successful regular season for the Buffs that saw them collect 38 national cuts and three school records.

After the conference championships, the only other meet left on the Buffs schedule is the NAIA Swimming and Diving National Championships set for Wednesday, Feb. 27 through Saturday, March 2.

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