William Blount is really getting the hang of this College World Series thing.
Former Governor Tyler Burstrom pitched his way into the Chattanooga State baseball history books last month in Grand Junction, Colo., picking up the win on the mound as the Tigers collected the school’s first-ever Junior College World Series victory.
Burstrom worked 6 2/3 innings to earn the milestone, 10-9 win.
“When I went out there, I just loved it” he said, “loved every minute of it.”
Just across the way in Lewiston, Idaho, Burstrom’s older brother, Trey, was playing second base for the Lee University Flames as they battled all the way to the NAIA College World Series championship game.
The Flames fell, 4-3, to Cumberland University in a heartbreaking, all-Tennessee final.
Wait, though. There’s more.
Former Lady Governor Leah Kelley returned to shortstop for Chattanooga State’s nationally ranked women’s softball team this spring, her clutching hitting and fielding helping the Lady Tigers reach the Women’s Junior College World Series in St. George, Utah, last month.
Kelley’s three-run homer in the region final punched Chattanooga’s ticket to national tournament, the Lady Tigers prevailing, 3-1, to return to the show after a one-year absence.
“It’s great to know we all came from William Blount,” Kelley said.
It was all quite the coup for William Blount, which saw brothers Craig and Justin Wojciechowski both reach the World Series with their respective colleges in 2006. Craig won a junior college national title with Walters State that season. Justin’s Cumberland team finished NAIA runners up.
With both tournaments taking place simultaneously in late May and early June, it took some doing for her and husband Dave to see both Trey and Tyler play, Stephanie Burstrom said. Tyler drew the start on the second day, with Dave and Stephanie making the trip to Lewiston the next day to watch Trey. That they got to see Trey, a senior, play at all is a story in itself.
The Flames and Senators left for their respective national tournaments the same day, Lee University first taking a connecting flight to Atlanta. When the plane landed in Denver - or tried to land - the fun started.
Snow in the Denver area first forced the plane to land in nearby Cheyenne, Wyo., to refuel. It would take a while.
“We sat on that plane for three hours waiting for them to refuel us,” Trey said.
By the time the plane made it back to Denver, the Flames had missed their connecting flight to Idaho, resulting in an unscheduled, 18-hour layover at the airport. The team missed the pre-tournament banquet, along with other opening festivities.
“We showed up less than 24 hours before our first game,” Trey said, “and we were playing the defending national champions!
“We said, ‘We have to beat them to get some sleep.’”
A day off after upsetting No. 1-ranked Lewis-Clark State earned the Flames enough rest to regroup and roar through the tournament to the title game.
“It was just an awesome experience,” Trey said. “This year, we were all seniors, and it was a phenomenal time.”
Tyler turned in a stellar season for the Senators, going 8-0 with nine saves and a 2.4 earned run average. The run brought with it a Division I scholarship offer from Lipscomb. Trey, whose first collegiate stop was also Chattanooga State, spent a season at the University of Tennessee before finishing his career at Lee.
Kelley, a sophomore who hit .369 with eight homers, 17 doubles and 66 runs batted in for the Lady Tigers, will continue her softball career at Maryville College next spring.
“I had a really good year at the plate,” Kelley said, “especially at the national tournament.”
The return home is a lot easier, she said, after helping the Lady Tigers get back to the national tournament after a one-year absence. That William Blount had a hand in three such runs in one season makes it all the sweeter.