Photo by Robert Smith

By Robert Wilson

       The Major League Baseball scouts in attendance Monday night at Hartfield Academy got a glimpse of Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin – the No. 1 rated player in the country in the Class of 2024 – and his pitching ability.

       The 6-foot-4, 205-pound hard-throwing right-hander – whose fastball has been clocked consistently in the mid-90s – threw a one hitter with only one walk and 11 strikeouts in Prep’s 9-0 victory in Game 1 of its three-game, MAIS Class 6A series.

       Five-time defending MAIS 6A state champion Prep – ranked No. 22 nationally by Perfect Game – improved to 16-3 overall and 4-0 in league play. Prep is 10-0 against MAIS teams. Hartfield dropped to 16-4 overall and 3-1 in league play. The teams play Game 2 Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Prep in Flowood. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Hartfield.

       Griffin, an LSU commitment, was on from the start Monday night, striking out three of the first five Hartfield hitters. Hartfield junior pitcher Cole Stumph broke up Griffin’s no hitter with a single with two outs in the fourth inning.

       “When I’m on the mound, it’s great to have an offense that gives me a lead early where I don’t feel like I have to waste pitches and can go right at the hitters,” Griffin said. “(Prep junior leftfielder) Peyton Puckett came up with some big hits tonight to bust the game open. I worked really hard over the past year to get my slider and change up where they are right now. Those pitches are game changers for me, and I felt like I had everything working last night. I got ahead of just about every hitter by pitching off my fastball. Getting ahead in the count is huge because I feel like I can really keep hitters guessing when that happens. Having a guy like (Prep senior catcher and South Alabama signee) Duncan Mathews behind the plate, gives me a ton of confidence to know I can throw any pitch in any count and that he’s going to be a wall back there.”

       “Konnor did a great job of competing,” Prep pitching coach Zander Romano said. “His ability to attack the strike zone and get some early swings kept his pitch count low. His fastball had a lot of life and was able to keep hitters off-balance with his slider. He’s worked hard to develop his changeup this season and it was a difference maker when facing opposing lineups the second time through.”

       Prep scored one run in the second inning, three runs in the third inning, one run in the fourth inning and four runs in the sixth inning. The Patriots had 11 hits, three by senior centerfielder and Mississippi State signee Rives Reynolds and two each by Mathews and Puckett. Reynolds and sophomore pinch runner Major Quin scored two runs. Puckett had three runs batted in and Reynolds and senior second baseman and Hinds Community College signee Matthew Cochran had two RBIs.

“The way Konnor pitched it wasn’t going to take many runs and I thought he did a good job dominating the strike zone,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “I thought our guys did a good job making adjustments at the plate. Stumph did a good job keeping us off-balance early. Later, we were able to have good at-bats and push across runs.”

       It was the second straight impressive game by Griffin in league play. He allowed only four hits and one earned run with 10 strikeouts and only one walk in six innings to lead Prep to a 9-2 victory over Madison-Ridgeland Academy last week in the rematch of the last three 6A state championship series.

       Griffin improved to 4-1 and lowered his earned run average to 1.64. He has 43 strikeouts and eight walks in 25 2/3 innings this season. Griffin, who plays shortstop when he isn’t on the mound, is hitting .500 with 23 runs scored, 19 RBIs, 3 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs this season. He had a single and a walk and scored one run Monday night.

       “This isn’t about me,” Griffin said. “When I play at Jackson Prep it’s all about my team and my teammates and being the best competitor and teammate that I can be to help reach our goal of another championship. I want my play to be God honoring first and then represent Jackso Prep the best I can. That’s what it’s all about.”