Bellaire’s Dunfee Leads Georgia Team to State Title

BELLAIRE — Baseball has been a major part of Mike Dunfee’s life.

After a couple of near misses, the 1993 Bellaire graduate has reached the pinnacle in the diamond sport.

Dunfee is head baseball coach at Gordon Lee High School in Chickamauga, Ga. The Trojans last week pocketed the Class A state championship.

The coveted crown comes on the heels of last spring’s state runner-up finish. Dunfee’s charges finished this season with a sparkling 28-8 mark.

“We peaked at the right time. Two months ago I never believed this could happen,” Dunfee said. “It is an awesome feeling. I am super proud of the kids. We also thanked the former players who helped pave the way.

“We have a family feeling in our community. It reminds me a lot like Bellaire back in the 1980s and 90s. We had a great fan following at the state tournament even though it was six hours away. This is a throwback town out in the middle of nowhere.”

Unlike the Ohio Valley, Georgia prep baseball season has a much longer lifespan.

“We start practice in January. Our first game was Feb. 12. We are allowed to play 30 regular-season games,” Dunfee said. “Kids down here play baseball year-round. Georgia is a very good baseball state.”

This marked Dunfee’s seventh season at the Gordon Lee helm, a school of some 450 students. His Trojans were also state runners-up in 2013 and 2014.

“We had a nice mix this year with our roster. We had four seniors and five juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen,” Dunfee said.” We had five seniors but I had to kick off one senior right before the tournaments started for not doing the things needed to be part of our team. He was our leadoff hitter and a very good player. We had a sophomore step in and do a great job.

“In Georgia the post-season is neat as two teams play the best two-of-three series. We went 8-0 and outscored our opponents 63-5. We really pounded the zone in the tournaments and had timely hitting and made plays. I think we can make another run next year. I like having the bull’s-eye on our backs. That is what you want. We just got to keep the kids motivated and hungry. We can’t afford to be satisfied.”

After graduating Bellaire, Dunfee played collegiately at Carson-Newman in Tennessee.

He launched his prep coaching career in the Volunteer State as an assistant for five years before landing the head coaching job at LaFayette High School in Georgia. His success there led him to Gordon Lee.

Dunfee’s coaching prowess was solidly rooted during his prep days where he played for John Magistro, Gene Ammirante and Mark Bonar.

“Those are three solid dudes. They were great coaches and teachers,” Dunfee said. “They pushed us hard but they made us better. I would run through a wall for them.”

Now being a Southerner for two-plus decades, the 42-year-old doesn’t envision a move back to the Ohio Valley.

“I will probably be a lifer here. My dad and step mom moved down here a few years back,” Dunfee said. “I always wanted to go South and play ball. I really like it here. It is a great place to raise a family.”

That family consists of wife, Stacey, and two children: Abbey, a freshman, and Nate, a seventh grader.

Dunfee is a math teacher but is planning to go into school administration.

OGDEN CLASSIC

The 42nd annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic is now in the books. The latest edition played out Saturday in sunny and warm conditions, boasting a robust field of 1,119 competitors, an impressive increase of nearly 300 from a year ago.

Team work is key in making any event a success, but it is paramount when staging a production that features more than 1,100 individuals.

The race committee does meticulous preparation in ensuing a quality extravaganza. Not to be overlooked is the cooperation and assistance delivered by Wheeling officials and from the city’s superb police department.

It is a true team effort, one that results in a true classic of a day.

Also deserving of kudos is the quality work of race announcer Dennis Delbert. The Bellaire resident is one of the premier road racers ever to pound the pavement in Ohio Valley while also being on the short list of superb distance coaches.

BUBBA’S BITS

∫ Kudos to the Bellaire Board of Education. The board ended an extended search for an athletic director by naming Big Reds’ legend Mike Sherwood to fill the void. The former WVU quarterbacking great has instant credibility to go with the needed experience, knowledge and personality to elevate all the sports programs at the school.

∫ Sami Schott is the new head girls’ basketball coach at Shenandoah. The former Bethany College standout had been serving as her mom’s assistant at Caldwell. Schott had a stellar prep career for the Zeps.

∫ Toronto product Blaze Glenn has been named second-team All-Horizon League. The Youngstown State sophomore outfielder is enjoying a monstrous season at the plate. Glenn leads YSU with a .324 batting average, 42 RBI, 61 hits and a .443 OBP while ranking in the top 10 of the Horizon League in eight different offensive categories. His 11 home runs this season are tied for the fourth most in a single season in Penguins’ history.

∫ Ohio State’s women’s rowing team last week won its sixth straight Big Ten championship, gaining an automatic bid in the 2018 NCAA Championships. The Buckeyes’ title unit has a local connection in Bianca Piloseno. The Baltimore Liberty Union graduate is a four-year letter-winner for OSU. Her grandfather, Joe Piloseno, is a 1954 St. John Central graduate.

∫ Former Martins Ferry softball star Shaye DeLeonardis was a solid contributor for the Akron Zips this spring. The redshirt freshman worked nine games as a pitcher while also seeing action in 10 other contests in the field. She was a three-sport standout at Ferry while also being the school’s salutatorian in 2016.

∫ Former John Glenn standout kicker and punter Aaron Bates, who enjoyed a brilliant football career at Michigan State, has been named the new athletic director at Buckeye Trail. Bates also spent a short time in the Steelers’ camp.

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