Bellaire native’s team in Ga. baseball state final

Mike Dunfee was a star baseball player at Bellaire High School in the early 90s.

After going on to a solid career at Carson Newman College in Tennessee, he’s entered the coaching ranks.

And thus far, at Gordon Lee High School, which is located in Chickamauga in northern Georgia on the Tennessee border near Chattanooga, Dunfee is showing that his skills aren’t limited to his playing ability.

Dunfee, who graduated from Bellaire in 1993 and is now a member of the school’s Wall of Fame, has guided his team to the Class A public school state final, best-of-three series, which opens today at Charlton County.

“We’re trying to bring back the big trophy,” Dunfee said during a phone interview prior to him and his team boarding a bus for a 7-hour trip south to the Florida border. “We knew we had a good chance (at being pretty good), but every pitch has mattered because we’re a fairly young team.”

This is actually Gordon Lee’s second straight appearance in the state title series and only Dunfee’s second season at the helm.

“We lost 10 seniors from the 2013 team,” Dunfee said. “But, we had some talent coming back. There were some points where we struggled as we tried to get some of these young pups some experience and at-bats.”

Since the tournament, which includes the top 16 teams based on regular season results and a computer points system, Gordon Lee, which was seeded fifth in the tourney, has caught fire. Its back was to the wall last weekend in the semifinals.

It fell in the opening game of the series to Treulten County, 11-4. It came back for a 10-2 victory and then captured the decisive game three, 3-1, in eight innings.

Now being back in the state final, Dunfee’s club is taking strictly a business-style approach.

“We’re looking for different results,” Dunfee said. “We know what to expect and what the atmosphere is going to be like. It’s a haul down there.”

Gordon Lee is actually Dunfee’s second head coaching position. He accepted the job there after spending five years at Lafayette High School, which is located 45 minutes south of his current post.

“I am certainly grateful to the opportunity that Lafayette gave me,” Dunfee said. “We made the playoffs a couple of years. We were in 4A (Georgia’s second biggest classification), but we were competitive and did well. I learned a lot about how to coach.”

Dunfee actually turned down the Gordon Lee job when it was first offered because it included a fifth-grade teaching position. He was hesistant about teaching elementary.

“After I thought it over some more, I thought, ‘let’s give it a shot,'” Dunfee explained. “I don’t regret it at all.”

Dunfee compared Gordon Lee, which has an enrollment of more than 400 students, to his alma mater Bellaire in terms of the support the community gives the school’s athletic teams.

Many members of Dunfee’s family still live in the Ohio Valley, including his parents.

“I get home probably twice a year,” Dunfee said. “The Ohio Valley will always be a special place to me.”