“I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get to Colorado and just have a chance to make some noise in the World Series,” Norton said from Alexander City by phone Tuesday night.
“I’m ready to go. This is what I’ve always wanted to do – play in front of a big crowd, lot of people – and this is my opportunity so hopefully I can make the most of it,” said Lee, referring to the crowds of 10,000 that often jam Grand Junction’s Sam Suplizio Field.
Central Alabama was undefeated in four games in the ACCC conference tournament in Ozark. The Trojans clinched the championship on May 16 by rallying for nine runs in the final three innings to defeat Southern Union 13-5. Lee was 4-for-6 with five RBIs in the win.
“I hit a double in the first for two RBIs. In the seventh, eighth and ninth, we just got it going through the order, scoring a bunch of runs. Hitting’s contagious,” Lee said.
It certainly was for the Trojans against the Bison. The score was 4-all after six innings. In the seventh, CACC scored four times. The Trojans added two runs in the eighth and three in the ninth. Norton had a single and an RBI in each of the last three innings.
Norton and Lee awoke very early Wednesday morning, if they slept at all, then left Alexander City at 3 a.m. for Atlanta and a flight west. There will be time to get accustomed their new surroundings.
“We’re going to get out there and have practice Thursday and Friday at a set time and place. We know that’s set up for us,” Lee said.
To date, Norton has pitched in 17 games, both as a starter and in relief, and is 7-3 on the season with one save. In 72 innings of work, his earned run average is 3.13 and he has 47 strikeouts.
Norton said the biggest difference in his pitching from last year to this season is better control of all his pitches, something he’s worked to improve.
“The main thing is just throwing strikes and being around the zone. … That’s one of the main things I’ve focused on. If you stay around the zone, they’ve got to swing the bat. A lot of times hitters get themselves out,” Norton said. “I can throw all my pitches more consistently in any count than I could last year. Last year, if it was 3-2 I was probably throwing fast ball instead of throwing maybe an off-speed pitch or a changeup. Just the trust in all four of my pitches now, there’s a big difference.”
“It definitely helps having the confidence in every count to throw any pitch because you keep a hitter really off balance at that point,” he added.
“He’s been real consistent for us all year. He’s really done well. He’s pitched well,” Lee said of Norton.
Lee’s done well, too. His .397 batting average leads his team. His hits include 16 doubles, three triples and four home runs. Batting sixth, he’s scored 29 runs and recorded 41 RBIs.
“JUCO baseball is a really good brand of baseball, I feel. A lot of good players come out of the league I play in. All year I played against good competition every day, grind it out, good times and bad, ups and downs. That’s how the game is. I just stuck with it and now we’re here,” said Lee.
The Trojans meet Florida’s Palm Beach State (38-19) in the national tournament’s first game. It is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. Mountain, 10 a.m. Central. Lee doesn’t think the early start will present any problems for him or his teammates.
“When we were playing Saturday doubleheaders we’d start at 12 o’clock. That’s not 9 o’clock but that’s still early. We’re used to getting up for class. It’s just kind of our routine. … We’ll be up and ready to play. Trust me – 10,000 people – we’ll be ready,” he said.