By Billy Watkins
Fifth-ranked Belhaven, 41-6, has advanced to an NCAA Division III softball Super Regional against No. 2 Texas Lutheran, 41-4, beginning Friday at 7 pm in Seguin, Texas.
The winner of the best-of-three games goes to the World Series.
Reaching a Super Regional is a milestone for the Blazers’ program, which became active NCAA Division III members prior to the 2019-20 season.
“Back when we were in NAIA we had a lot of postseason experience but it didn’t carry the NCAA brand,” Belhaven coach Kevin Griffin said. “A lot of people didn’t understand what the NAIA was.
“Last year was our first to be eligible for the postseason. “We would’ve been eligible the year before when COVID hit. But to make it last year — I think we had a little bit of a sour taste in our mouths about the way we played in that regional (being eliminated after three games), we’ve kinda talked about that since it happened. We didn’t want that same feeling as a year ago.”
Those talks certainly didn’t hurt.
Belhaven swept through the Marhsall, Texas regional this past weekend, beating Fontbonne of St. Louis, 8-2, No. 7 East Texas Baptist, 4-3, and No. 6 Linfield (Oregon), 5-3.
Different players stepped up in each game.
But once again, sophomore Kennedy Carruth was dominant on the mound. She was the winning pitcher in all three games, throwing 14.2 innings — including a complete-game win over East Texas Baptist.
Carruth also homered, doubled, scored a run and knocked in another in the finale.
“We knew coming into the tournament that it was going to be one of the toughest (regionals),” Carruth said. “Honestly, I think that was good for us. We had to play every pitch, every game as hard as we could.”
Added Allie Gordon, the Blazers’ outstanding third baseman who homered and knocked in three runs in the opening victory: “We’ve been saying just play each game as if it’s our last. With that energy, we’ve been really competing.”