Austin Blount fell in love with the view at his future campus.
Hiwassee College’s baseball coaches liked what they saw in the 2012 Dalton High graduate, too.
Blount signed Saturday on the Hiwassee campus in Madisonville, Tenn., some 80 miles northeast of Chattanooga. He received an athletic scholarship for $2,000 and an academic scholarship worth $4,000, a total that will cover nearly half his annual tuition.
Hiwassee started showing interest early this spring, and Blount — who played several positions for the Catamounts over the years — was sold when he talked to school representatives at length following an April game at Allatoona. However, Blount had already been intrigued by an on-campus visit in March and enjoyed the isolated feel.
Madisonville’s population was listed as 4,577 in the 2010 census. In a story published Monday on the Monroe County Advocate newspaper’s website, the college’s new president estimated that the school will have an enrollment of less than 400 on the 400-acre campus this fall.
“Whenever we went up there and talked to the coaches, they were super-friendly and it’s a really nice campus,” Blount said. “There isn’t a whole lot out there, and I really liked how it was off to the side.
“I just liked a lot of the views, too.”
Blount pitched and played shortstop, second base and outfield for Dalton. He’s not certain how the Tigers will use him.
“It’s kind of up in the air, but they’re leaning toward mostly just pitching,” he said. “I’ll probably be more of a utility player and do a lot of pitching.”
The Tigers, coached by Shane Gardner, are a National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association Division I program, and they compete in the Mid-East Region. The school’s website does not have complete results for this season, but the team was 9-22 with only a few games to go.
There were 33 players listed on the roster — 24 of them freshmen and eight were redshirted.
“I’ll be playing for the spot as soon as I get there,” Blount said.
“I think just recently was the beginning of it being a four-year school. So it’s a lot of freshmen and sophomores.”
While Blount will be the only former Cat on the Hiwassee roster, he will have an opportunity to see an old teammate and fellow member of the Dalton High Class of 2012 on the diamond. Chattanooga’s Tennessee Temple University also competes in the Mid-East Region, and Cats outfielder Carter Gillean signed with the Crusaders in May. The two teams are scheduled to play next season, Blount said.
Blount was also considering Covenant College in Lookout Mountain and University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., but eventually Hiwassee rose above.
“I just really didn’t feel like that was a great fit,” Blount said of Covenant. “The University of the Cumberlands offered an academic scholarship and a chance to play, but I didn’t like either one of those as much as I liked Hiwassee.”
Blount is looking forward to beginning his career as a Tiger, saying he could head to Madisonville as early as next week for team workouts. He’ll have the opportunity to make an impression on coaches even before the 2013 season begins.
“Over the course of the fall they will have a fall ball team, and (we’ll be) scrimmaging other local schools just for practice,” he said.