By Robert Wilson

       Pinch runner Sarah Stockstill scored on Kennedy Carruth’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift No. 6 seed Belhaven to a 4-3 upset over No. 1 seed Linfield (Oregon) to send the Lady Blazers to the NCAA Division III national championship series Sunday afternoon at Marshall, Texas.

       Belhaven improved to 46-8 and plays No. 2 seed and host East Texas Baptist Tuesday at 11 a.m. in Game 1 of the best of three series for the national championship. Game 2, and Game 3, if necessary, are scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Belhaven lost to East Texas Baptist 3-2 in the second round before winning three straight games to reach the national championship series.

       Pinch hitter Colby Hollinger walked to open the seventh inning for Belhaven. Stockstill pinch ran for Hollinger and moved to second on Madi Miller’s walk. Allie Gordon singled to load the bases and Carruth hit her game winning sacrifice fly to score Stockstill.

Carruth – also an All-American pitcher – threw a complete game, three-hit shutout for a 6-0 victory over Linfield in the semifinals Sunday afternoon. Catcher Anna Camie and junior designated player Katie Jo Richardson had two hits, three RBIs and one home run each. 

photo by: Hays Collins

       Belhaven coach 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. The Lady Blazers eliminated East Texas Baptist two of the last three years in regionals on East Texas Baptist’s home field in Marshall, Texas where the CWS is being played.

       Carruth had seven strikeouts in the second game and improved to 30-5 for the season.

       “I have never doubted this group,” Griffin said. “This has been our home away from home for the past three or four years and we were excited about coming here and playing.  We came in with a great plan. Kennedy is the best pitcher in the country. We had some big hits, and it was only fitting that Kennedy came up to bat and could win the game on her own. It took a lot of great at bats to get on in front of her. Colby led off with a big walk. Katie Joe had big hit after big hit all tournament.” 

photo by: Hays Collins

       “I’m so blessed to be on this team with all these girls,” Carruth said. “I was very tired, but the team told me to keep working and they had my back. I knew as soon as we got in that dugout in the seventh inning it was over. We were going to take care of business. Everybody on this team is special and they get the job done when their name is called.”