Making some Chatter: Chattanooga comes through in clutch to eliminate State College of Florida
Tyler Burstrom usually closes out games for the Chattanooga State (Tenn.) Community College baseball team.
The sophomore right-hander, though, was forced to watch with the season on the line Sunday in an Alpine Bank Junior College World Series elimination game at Suplizio Field.
State College of Florida had the go-ahead run on base, but Chattanooga’s Brandon Elrod was able to get a pop out and a double-play ground ball to save a 10-9 victory for the Tigers.
“It was kind of a tale of two games,” Chattanooga coach Greg Dennis said. “A lot of times in JUCO it happens. They did a good job of stopping our momentum and getting it turned on themselves. Then we had a dogfight.
“I give the guys credit. They did a great job at the end. They got a couple hits that were bad luck. Brandon Elrod came in and did a super job and Michael (Maxwell) made a great play.”
With two on and one out, Maxwell fielded a ground ball at second base.
Instead of flipping the ball to the shortstop, he took matters into his own hands, touching second base himself and throwing to first for the double play and the last out.
“That was completely clutch,” Burstrom said. “I talked to Brandon when I got in the dugout. This guy strikes out and we got the big pop out. If they don’t safety squeeze, and this guy hits into a double play that will be huge. You knew Mike wasn’t flipping that. He was taking it the whole way. He got it. He made great plays all day. He saved me three or four times.”
Maxwell’s play came moments after the third-ranked Manatees (37-15) strung together five consecutive hits, including back-to-back home runs.
Austin Chubb hit his second home run of the game and third of the tournament to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Tyler Rocklein followed with a solo shot. “You knew momentum was on their side in the ninth when their first guy, the big guy, hit a home run,” Burstrom said. “We’ve had our fair share of these games. Luckily, we’ve been the team to come out on top. It’s nerve-racking, but it’s great. We love it. I think this is the fourth game we’ve had come down to the wire (in postseason).”
Burstrom (7-0) kept the Manatees’ bats relatively quiet for three innings and didn’t give up a run until the fourth.
He gave up four runs, including a Chubb three-run home run, in the fifth and pitched into the seventh before he was pulled.
Burstrom allowed six runs on 13 hits in 62⁄3 innings.
“Tyler is the pulse of the team,” Dennis said. “He’s been all year. We knew he’d give us a great chance to win. He didn’t not deserve to win that game the way he came out and threw. He threw very courageously today.”
No. 8 Chattanooga (38-15) gave Burstrom some runs to work with, putting up three in the second inning, four in the third and two more in the fourth.
Isaac Davenport drove in a pair of runs in the second inning and two more in the third for a 8-0 lead.
One inning later, Adam Whitlock smashed a ball deep into the parking lot to drive in two runs and take a 10-0 lead.
“The comeback was very positive,” College of Florida coach Tim Hill said. “The kids battled and we had a chance to get some runs in the eighth again and get closer, and in the ninth inning we thought we were going to at least tie it up but it didn’t happen.”