Ole Brook alum Madi Miller thankful for the ride Belhaven softball took in 2024

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Brookhaven High graduate Madi Miller feels a sense of gratitude when she looks back on her 2024 softball season playing at Belhaven University in Jackson.

The daughter of Tommy and Gerri Miller, she was the starting center fielder for a Belhaven team that reached heights never ascended before by the program.

The Blazers finished 47-10 overall and were runners-up at the NCAA Division III Softball World Series earlier this month.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The sting of losing the three-game series to East Texas Baptist University will continue to fade and Miller can’t help but be grateful for the journey that the 2024 season was for Belhaven softball.

“The first thing that comes to my mind when I reflect on this season is how in the world did it go by so fast,” said Miller.

Belhaven and head coach Kevin Griffin knew they’d be strong in 2024 with nearly the entire roster intact from a team that made a Super Regional appearance in 2023.

Belhaven began the season on Feb. 13 by playing at home, but after their first four games in Jackson, the Blazers hit the road to play a schedule that had them meeting some of the best teams that Division III softball had to offer.

The team went to Edwardsville, Illinois for a tournament and from there to Columbus, Georgia for another tournament where they’d play two teams, Case Western Reserve and Linfield, that they’d eventually meet again at the World Series.

There was also a tournament in Orlando and between the fourth game of the season in Jackson and a March 26 league game at home against Birmingham-Southern, the Blazers played 21 straight times on the road with a couple rainouts thrown in as well.

“Being on the road the majority of this season definitely had its pros and cons, but ultimately I think it led to us being a stronger team, which proved to be true in the end,” said Miller.

Another strength of the 2024 version of Belhaven softball was having two-league MVP level players coming back to play a sixth season.

Third baseman Allie Gordon was one of those sixth-year stars for the Blazers. The native of Macon, Georgia was the Collegiate Conference of the South’s MVP in 2023 and was a first team All-CCS pick this season. Gordon provided power at the plate, hitting 17 home runs and driving in 65 runs this season.

The other cornerstone piece was sixth-year pitcher Kennedy Carruth. Carruth was an outstanding pitcher at Silliman Institute in Clinton, Louisiana and she then played two years of junior college ball at Coast Alabama South CC.

She was CCS Pitcher of the Year in 2023 and 2024 and pitched 252 innings this season to lead Belhaven. Carruth also drove in 36 runs at the plate as a hitter.

“Our success was definitely in large part due to those two sixth-year players, Allie and Kennedy, who really put the team on their backs in order to help lead us to the national championship,” said Miller.

Miller, who was a standout at Copiah-Lincoln CC before signing with Belhaven, was an all-conference performer herself playing centerfield for the Blazers. The strong-armed Miller played catcher at Brookhaven High for Mandy Vinson. At Copiah-Lincoln under coach Meleah Howard, she spent time playing behind the plate and in right field before moving to a full time center fielder at BU.

She was an All-CCS First Team selection this season after being tabbed for the Second Team in 2023. At the plate, Miller bats from the left side and uses a slapper style of hitting to make contact with the ball. The speedy Miller hit nine triples this season for Belhaven.

In 2024, Miller finished with a .308 batting average and scored 52 runs in 56 games for the Blazers. Her bat was huge in helping BU reach the World Series, as she had some big hits at Berry College in the Super Regional round of play.

Belhaven began the World Series with a 5-2 win over Case Western Reserve. The tournament was played in Marshall, Texas on the campus of East Texas Baptist University and in their second game, the Blazers dropped a winner’s bracket matchup 3-2 to the home team Tigers.

Miller and her teammates rallied to beat Tufts 3-0 and then swept two games (6-0, 4-3) against Linfield, the top overall seed in the tournament.

“I can’t say enough about my teammates and their willingness to surrender our plans and just let God take control of our remarkable season that ultimately made history,” said Miller. “Time and time again we were faced with adversity, but in the end, watching each of my teammates choose to say, ‘you know what God, whatever the reason for this may be, we trust you,’ just really exemplified the type of program that has been built at Belhaven.”

That set the Blazers up to face host ETBU in a best of three series for the national championship.

Belhaven got the title series started with a thrilling 4-3 win in game one. Holding that one run lead in the seventh inning, the Blazers got an ESPN SportsCenter worthy catch by Miller as she ran into the centerfield wall while chasing down a hard-hit ball.

Miller was also one of two Blazers to score in the fifth inning to put Belhaven up 4-3.

The win by BU broke a 23-game winning streak for ETBU, but the Tigers (48-3) responded with two wins (8-2, 9-5) to secure the second national championship in program history.

An honor graduate from Belhaven who majored in biology, Miller is planning on suiting up for the Blazers again in 2025 while pursuing her master’s degree. Belhaven also had another CLCC alum on its roster in pitcher Belle West.

“When I really sit and think about this season, the main thing that comes to mind is just gratitude,” said Miller. “It’s definitely bittersweet finishing second, but my heart is somewhat content knowing we fought until the very end. Sometimes it’s just not your day, and that’s just the way softball works sometimes. We weren’t supposed to win that national championship and that’s okay. We made ourselves, our teachers, our coaches, our parents, our school and our communities proud and to me that says a lot more than a national championship title. I’m just really so thankful.”