Breaking Ground and Breaking Records

The Blazer baseball and softball teams have experienced their most successful seasons to date, breaking school and national records, receiving NAIA recognition, and watching senior Craig Westcott win Mississippi’s most sought after college baseball award—the Ferriss Trophy.

Before their season even began, the teams were building a strong foundation of teamwork through community service projects across the city. With an eye towards the college motto “to serve, not to be served,” teammates and coaches first found success in breaking ground with shovels—and later breaking records with bats.

Baseball Team: blood, sweat…and books

Since the day after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Belhaven Baseball team has carried on an annual tradition of giving blood. Head Coach Hill Denson says, “We look forward to our blood drive every year. We talk to our guys a lot about how important blood donation is, and I am really proud of our guys this year.” This year the team broke a record with 32 pints of donated blood.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Day, the baseball team worked together to help New Life Ministries with a number of outdoor projects. Chris Bennett, junior baseball player, says the service day “gives us a chance to come out and serve the community. It’s not about us looking good or helping each other—it’s about helping everyone else around us.”

The Blazers also worked with Read Across America to read aloud to elementary school children. It was a busy year for the Blazers—even before they made it to the baseball diamond.

Baseball Team “Blazes” New Trail

The baseball team’s season was unprecedented. The Blazers won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) Tournament for the first time since 2004 and made it to the championship game of the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round for the first time in the program’s history. To top it off, senior Craig Westcott won the 2009 Cellular South Ferriss Trophy, which recognized him as the top college baseball player in Mississippi!

Belhaven started strong with six wins in their first seven contests, including a victory over Delta State University who was ranked 1st in the NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll at the time. The Blazers’ final record was 43-20 overall, and the regular season closed at 36-18 which included a hard-fought win over Millsaps College who was ranked 1st in NCAA Division III.

The GCAC Tournament was a hard fought battle, as the Blazers had to come up from a third-ranked conference position to pull off a victory. After one win against the University of Mobile, a shutout by pitcher Craig Wescott against LSU-Shreveport, and a second win against LSU-S—Belhaven was vaulted into the championship game. The final showdown was between Mobile and Belhaven, and the Blazers pulled off a last minute GCAC tournament victory.

With the GCAC tournament won, the Blazers moved on to the 2009 NAIA Baseball Championship Opening Round. Amidst fiery competition, the Blazers withstood all but the hottest flames—the Lee University Flames. After three wins and one loss, the Blazers fell to Lee University in the championship game. In their ride to the National Championship, the baseball team “blazed” a trail where no other baseball team in college history has traveled.

Another first for the team (and for all small schools) was Westcott’s triumph as the 2009 Cellular South Ferriss Trophy award winner. Westcott also received NAIA recognition as National Pitcher of the Week on March 24, as well as six GCAC Pitcher of the Week Awards.

Six players earned GCAC All-Conference honors for their efforts during the season.  Craig Westcott, Timmy Foster, Lake Eiland, Bryan McCormick, and Kyle Medley were all awarded All-Conference Team recognition for their performance, and Charlie Edwards was the GCAC Gold Glove winner.

“I’m very proud of our team and the effort the players put forward throughout the course of the season,” says Head Coach Hill Denson. “They battled all season long and fortunately for us, the pieces fell into place enabling us to make a strong postseason run. We hope that the momentum and confidence gained during this season will carry on into 2010 as we move forward next year,” adds Denson.

Lady Blazers’ season marked by Service and Success

The Lady Blazers softball team has worked together to serve the community and to achieve a record breaking season. The Lady Blazers volunteered their time to serve as a team, building bonds between teammates and the community. In September, they spent time with mentally disabled adults at The Mustard Seed in Brandon, Miss. They played board games, danced and sang, played softball games, and made it a day to remember for both the team and the residents.

The Lady Blazers softball team has worked together to serve the community and to achieve a record breaking season. The Lady Blazers volunteered their time to serve as a team, building bonds between teammates and the community. In September, they spent time with mentally disabled adults at The Mustard Seed in Brandon, Miss. They played board games, danced and sang, played softball games, and made it a day to remember for both the team and the residents.

They also volunteered for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Day by removing debris and raking leaves at the Perkins Foundation. These service projects set the stage for the necessary teamwork that would culminate in the Lady Blazers’ most victorious season in the softball program’s history!

Smashing Records, Recording Success

The softball team broke 26 various national and school records en route to a 36-19 record. The 36 wins by the Lady Blazers sets a new school record for most victories in a season, and it was the second time in four years that the previous record has been eclipsed.

They started the season with key victories, including one over NCAA Division I Grambling State University. After two losses, they bounced back to win 13 of their next 17 games. With a win over Jackson State they tied the previous school record for most wins in a season—33. The next day Belhaven surpassed the record with a win over Spring Hill College.

They advanced to the GCAC tournament championship contest for the third time in four years, where they fought hard but bowed out to William Carey in the championship game.

Seniors Britney Webb, Mallory Meadows, and Keresa Steichen had solid seasons to complete their Belhaven careers. Webb set a new school record for most runs scored in a season (73), led the nation in triples (9) and stolen bases (55), and broke Belhaven’s single season record with 181 trips to the plate.

Meadows turned in one of the best seasons in school history, as she led the team with a .485 batting average, NAIA best 78 RBI’s, 18 home runs (2nd nationally), 150 bases (4th nationally), and a total of 80 hits on the year. Meadows holds the Belhaven single season record in each of the aforementioned categories.

Freshman Heather Pace led the NAIA with 24 doubles, which put her at the top of the Belhaven record books for the most in a single season. Pace also broke the NAIA record for 11 RBI’s in a single game!

Players who received conference and national recognition for their efforts in 2009 include: Mallory Meadows, Britney Webb, Heather Pace, Tiffany Ansley, Salina Cervantes, Ashley Mottola, Jessica Eggold, and Keresa Steichen.

“I am very proud of this group for breaking the school record for wins and getting back to the GCAC Championship game after a year lapse,” says Head Coach Rick Fremin. “I also feel that this team has raised the level of play for the program and that the future is bright”.

With such a strong foundation, 2010 looks like a bright year for both teams to “blaze” an even brighter trail, full of service and success.  —KM and MP

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