The softball team, 18-16 overall and 16-10 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, has finished its regular season conference slate and will compete in the league tournament April 24-27 at Brickyard Park in Kingsport. The Lady Buffaloes will be the No. 6 seed and look to make a run similar to back-to-back seasons in 2016 and 2017, when they advanced to the AAC tournament championship game.
Milligan finished as the sixth best team in the conference thanks to having one of the best records against teams at the top of the league. The Buffs posted a win over top-ranked and then-national No. 17 Truett McConnell University before upsetting then-No. 23 Tennessee Wesleyan University, the league’s regular season runner-up. Milligan will enter the tournament having won nine of the last 13 conference matchups.
Freshman Erin Forgety and senior Kassi Butcher have provided the Buffaloes with a solid one-two punch inside the circle. Forgety ranks No. 5 in the AAC with an earned-run average of 2.15 while also ranking in the AAC’s top 10 in opposing batting average (.246), strikeouts (101) and innings pitched per game (5.96), for which she ranks No. 1. Forgety has 12 complete games, including three shutouts and one combined shutout.
While Forgety usually gets the start in game one of the Buffaloes’ doubleheaders, Butcher shuts teams down in game two. Butcher ranks No. 10 in the AAC for ERA (2.58) and ranks in the top 20 in categories such as opposing batting average (.263), strikeouts (41), total hits allowed (91) and wins (9).
Forgety is 9-8 overall while Butcher is 9-6.
On the offensive end, Neelee Griffith and Kirstan Beaver continue to post high numbers at the dish. Griffith is the team leader in batting average (.341) and has added seven doubles and two home runs. Beaver is batting .330, which is second on the team, alongside six doubles, two triples and one homer.
If the Buffs win the AAC tournament for the first time since 2008, or if they finish runner-up to regular season champion Truett McConnell, they would advance to the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round for the third time in the last four years. Further tournament details, including the full bracket and schedule of play, will be announced by the AAC over the upcoming weekend.
On the baseball diamond, the Buffaloes still have two AAC series left in the regular season, including a home series against St. Andrews next Monday-Tuesday. Much will be on the line in the three-game set as the Buffaloes can come closer to clinching a spot in the tournament, depending on results against the Knights.
Currently, Milligan is eighth in the league, one game ahead of Montreat, which the Buffs swept, and two games ahead of St. Andrews. With only six games left in the AAC regular season, two or three wins over St. Andrews would provide some welcomed breathing room in the conference race, since only eight teams qualify.
Blake Dutton has led Milligan this season as the spark on the offense, hitting .384 in 34 games. Dutton is one of nine Buffs still batting over .300 for the season and is followed immediately by Snaider Torrealba (.353) and Juan Vasquez (.340). All ranking in the league’s top 20 for average, the trio has combined for 10 home runs and 67 RBIs.
After the Buffaloes finish their home slate with St. Andrews next week, they will head to Union to close out the regular season before turning their attention to the AAC tournament, set for May 1-4 at Hunter Wright Stadium in Kingsport. The tournament will be set up with two pools, the winner of each pool facing off in the AAC tournament championship game and earning a spot at the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round.
More baseball tournament information will be released by the AAC once the conference regular season has finished.