BASEBALL: Austin Thompson hoping to make an impact at Chattanooga State

Among those on hand to see Gordon Lee’s Austin Thompson (seated, second from left) sign on to play baseball at Chattanooga State were (front row, from left) Robert Collins, Christine Thompson and Steve Thompson. On the back row is Cayden Powell, Mikayla Martin, Tiffany Martin, Gordon Lee assistant baseball coach Derek McDaniel, Gordon Lee head baseball coach Mike Dunfee, Halie Thompson, Karen Thompson and Charles Thompson. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

It didn't take long for Austin Thompson to make an impact with the Gordon Lee baseball team and local national juco program Chattanooga State is hoping for the same.

Thompson, a senior, signed his letter of intent to join the Tigers' program next season in a ceremony attended by family, friends and teammates at the school on Wednesday.

"This day means a lot to me," Thompson said. "This is something you think about a lot, playing little league ball all the way up until now, knowing everything you've done has paid off and you're getting to go play baseball in college. It's great."

Thompson transferred to Gordon Lee as a sophomore and quickly made an impression on head coach Mike Dunfee.

“When he came to (Gordon Lee) after transferring in, he could only play junior varsity that first year," Dunfee explained. "And when I watched him play on the JV team that year, I knew right then he could already help us out on varsity, so I was excited for that next year to come."

The hard-throwing righty didn't disappoint, going 12-1 with 50 strikeouts and a 2.36 ERA to earn first team All-State status by Georgia Dugout Preview. He quickly became one of the top pitchers on a staff that helped the Trojans win the Region 6-A championship and advance all the way to the Class A Public School state championship series in Rome.

He also showed he could handle things with the bat as he hit .313 with two doubles, a triple, a homer and 19 RBIs and was selected to the Walker County Dream Team.

"I'll be able to bring a big arm to the program," said Thompson, who also started at quarterback and defensive back on the Gordon Lee football team the past two seasons. "Hopefully I'll be able to pitch a lot, maybe even come in as a starter, and strike some guys out next year.

"Chattanooga State just a great fit for me. It's close to home and that's one of the things I like the most about it. I know a few guys that are going there. It's a good program and I look forward to playing there for the next two years."

"He really stepped up last year," Dunfee added. "We had some injury problems last year and he came in and went 12-1 and that loss didn't come until state finals. He's very confident and just a super-competitive kid that's going to attack the zone. He's a competitor with a high motor who just wants to play the game."