ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - When Christian Ostrander left Jones County Junior College for Louisiana Tech in 2015, Chris Kirtland was called out of the bullpen.
The one-time assistant was named the Bobcats’ head coach just two months prior to the 2016 baseball season.
“We had a really young roster that was really hungry and talented, mixed in with some real solid leadership of some sophomores that had been through the season before,” Kirtland said. “And we had a bunch of Mississippi boys just getting after it.”
Kirtland could not have asked for a hotter start in his first season. Jones won its first 17 contests of 2016, never losing back-to-back games the entire season.
“By the end of the game you’d look up and say, ‘Oh they’ve scored six, seven runs in the last two innings and won the ball game,’” Kirtland said. “So, they just had a very special something – the thing that most championship teams have and that’s that ‘it’ factor.”
It’s the same intangibles Kirtland saw in the 2011 Bobcats, which sparked a decade of success with their runner-up finish at the NJCAA Division II World Series.
That group, along with Ostrander, met with the 2016 Bobcats prior to their trip to Enid, Oklahoma.
“They were able to stand before our players leading into that tournament and tell them, ‘You’re going up there to represent Mississippi on the national stage,’” Kirtland said. “’But you’re going up there to win this national title and bring it back home.’”
Eight days and five wins later, Jones College did just that – outscoring their World Series opponents 62-28, capped off by a 7-1 win over Gateway College in the title game.
The Bobcats finished a school-record 5-9, sent 16 players to the Division I level and become the first junior college from Mississippi to win the DII National Championship.
“This baseball program has a national championship in 2016, our softball program has a national championship in 2018, our basketball program has a national championship in 2014,” Kirtland said. “So, something special’s going on at Jones.”