Photo by Hays Collins

By Robert Wilson

       Jackson Prep senior pitcher-shortstop Konnor Griffin – the No. 1 rated high school baseball player in the country – has been getting headlines all season and finished his career earlier this month by leading the Patriots to their seventh consecutive MAIS Class 6A state championship.

       But this week, all the attention in the Griffin household will be focused on Griffin’s father, Kevin, and his Belhaven softball team as they play in the Division III College World Series for the first time in school history.

       No. 6 seed Belhaven, 42-7, plays No. 3 seed Case Western Reserve (Ohio), 40-7, Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the first round of the eight-team CWS at Marshall, Texas (watch livestream at Belhaven, Case Western, No. 2 seed East Texas Baptist and No. 7 seed Rowan (New Jersey) are in one bracket and are playing a double elimination tournament to decide who goes to the national championship best of three series. The winner of the Belhaven-Case Western game plays at 4 p.m. Friday against the East Texas-Rowan winner. The two losers play at 1:30 p.m. Friday in an elimination game.

       Kevin Griffin, is in his 14th season as Belhaven’s head coach, has led his team to CWS three previous years in different divisions. In Griffin’s first season, he led Belhaven to a NAIA national third place finish. In 2016 and 2018, Griffin led Belhaven to National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association national runner-up finishes. 

       Belhaven finished one win away from reaching the Division III CWS last season.

“At the beginning of this year, we had one goal,” said Griffin, who has won 444 games in his Belhaven career. “It had nothing to do with winning the conference, it had nothing to do with winning a regional, it had everything to do with winning the super regional and getting to the world series. Anything else we thought we would be a failure to the season. That was all the way back to Day One before we even played a game. Before we even knew how these team, with some new faces, would jell. Now that we are here, we can check that box. We get to go over there to Marshall Texas, a very familiar setting. We’ve always said it is our home away from home. It is a beautiful setting. They put on some great tournaments there and we usually play well there. We are excited about going back to East Texas.”

Photo by Hays Collins

Belhaven is led by All-American pitcher Kennedy Carruth and All-American third baseman Allie Gordon. Carruth has a 26-5 record with a 1.18 earned run average and 238 strikeouts in 201 1/3 innings. Gordon has a .390 batting average with 16 doubles, 14 home runs and 59 runs batted in. Junior catcher Annie Camie leads the team with a .415 batting average. Camie hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 3-2 win in the deciding Game 3 of the Mount Berry Super Regional. Camie and Carruth went to the same high school, Silliman Institute, in Clinton, La., which plays in the MAIS with the Mississippi private schools. 

       “We haven’t had a team that has had the talent, which has stuck together, and picked each other up in my time at Belhaven like this team,” Griffin said. “We have had some really good teams here, but this team one through nine, we pick each other up. It is kind of next man up.”