Photo by Chris Todd

By Robert Wilson

       FLOWOOD – Jackson Prep senior pitcher-shortstop Konnor Griffin was recognized Friday as one of 55 players – one of two high school players – on the preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best amateur baseball player in the country. 

       Friday night, here at Prep’s Patriot Field, Griffin showed everyone why.

       The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander made his first start on the mound this season, consistently throwing 95 miles per hour fastballs – hitting as high as 97 mph – and allowed two hits and no runs with six strikeouts in three innings and led six-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion Prep to a 5-1 victory over Lamar School before an estimated 300, which including dozens of Major League Baseball scouts, crosscheckers and MLB high office personnel for the third straight game watching Griffin’s every move before, during and after the game.

       In addition, Griffin connected for a home run over the left field fence and hit just in front of Lakeland Drive – more than 400 feet from home plate – on a 2-1 count to lead off the bottom of the first inning.

       It’s nothing new for the LSU signee, who is projected by as the No. 8 player – the only high school player in the Top 10 – to be taken in the Major League Baseball Draft in July. 

       Prep – nationally ranked No. 22 by Perfect Game – improved to 3-0. Prep defeated Brookhaven Academy 12-0 in four innings Tuesday and defeated Riverfield, La., 10-0 in six innings Thursday.

       Griffin – the PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Player of the Year last season and a member of the Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team this season – had a great first week.

He played shortstop and had one single in one official at bat, with two walks, scored three runs and stole five bases against Brookhaven Academy. Griffin went 1 for 3 with one walk, scored two runs, had one run batted in and hit a 400-foot home run to center field against Riverfield. In addition to his long home run Friday against Lamar, he had a double, scored one run, had one RBI, walked twice and stole three bases.

Griffin has a .667 batting average, a .818 on base percentage and a 2.651 slugging percentage after three games with a double, two home runs, six runs scored, four RBIs, five walks, and eight stolen bases.

He threw 55 pitches, 38 for strikes, and walked one Friday in his first game pitching this season.

“Konnor did a good job on the mound,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “He missed some spots, but we’re still able to strike out four and only walked one. His home run was one of the longest balls I’ve ever seen anyone hit since I’ve been at Prep (this is Heavener’s eight years as head coach and four years as an assistant) and maybe around high school baseball.”

“I felt really good on the mound,” Griffin said. “Early in the game, I was pretty amped up with it being my first outing and may have overthrown a few pitches but settled in and was able to keep my pitch count down in those three innings of work. My arm felt great, and our defense played really well behind me.”

📸 by Chris Todd

Griffin wasn’t trying to hit a home run, just making contact.

“I was just trying to find a good barrel,” Griffin said. “My approach is always having a quality at-bat and I’m not thinking about hitting the ball out of the park. Their pitcher had a good fastball and I wanted to catch it out front and hit it hard somewhere. Any time a home run is the result it’s a good feeling and leading off the game knowing you put your team in front early is a bonus. Having (Prep junior) Gardner (Young) follow it with a triple really set the tone for the ballgame.”

       Griffin is one of five starters back from last year’s team, which finished 31-4 and ranked No. 19 nationally by Perfect Game. The Patriots won 22 of its last 24 games and swept Madison-Ridgeland Academy for the 6A state title. It was the 22nd state title in school history.

Griffin was a member of the 18-U USA National Team last fall and competed in the WBSC (World Baseball Softball Confederation) U-18 Baseball World Cup Aug. 31-Sept. 10 in Taipei City, Taiwan.

       Griffin also participated in the 2023 High School All-American Game and was one of eight players to participate in the MLB-USA Baseball High School Home Run Derby as part of the Major League Baseball All-Star week in Seattle and played in the Perfect Game’s Dick’s Sporting Goods All-American Classic in Phoenix this past summer.

Griffin had a 7-1 record and a 1.38 earned run average with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 50 2/3 innings and had a .537 batting average with 43 runs, 30 runs batted in, 6 doubles, 2 triples and 8 home runs last season. His batting average ranks third in school history behind Gene Wood (.606 in 2014) and Luke Maddox (.579 in 2009). Griffin had a .951 slugging percentage.

        The Walker Wilbanks award was started in 2016 at Jackson Prep in memory of Wilbanks, a baseball and football player at Prep who passed away in 2014. A Prep baseball player is awarded the honor of wearing Wilbanks’ number 22 jersey each year and Griffin is this year’s recipient of the award for next season and changed from wearing his No. 21 to No. 22, which is ironically his favorite number.