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Baseball: Irish settle into new season

John Sandberg | Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Baseball fans that want to know what the game looks like from all angles should chat with Notre Dame senior Adam Norton.

Norton primarily played shortstop for Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., before starting 26 games at third base his freshman year at Notre Dame. When Irish coach Mik Aoki was introduced as the new coach the fall of Norton’s sophomore year, the new coaching staff decided to test Norton’s skills in the outfield in addition to having him pitch more.

When playing the outfield didn’t work out as Norton and the Irish coaching staff had planned, Norton spent time as Notre Dame’s designated hitter in addition to accumulating some innings as a weekday starter.

Norton batted .261 and .254 in his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively. It wasn’t until last year that Norton really came into his own, this time on the pitching mound. 

Norton threw 98.0 innings for the Irish in 2012, going 5-5 with a 4.32 ERA. Most impressive was Norton’s control – the right-hander walked just seven batters the entire 2012 season. Norton credits Irish pitching coach Chuck Ristano for his command-centered mentality.

“One of the things he says is, ‘Work fast, throw strikes,’” Norton said. “Just looking at the stats, the hitters are going to get themselves out more times than they’re going to get a hit. [But] if you walk them, they’re going to be on base 100 percent of the time. Every pitching coach I had growing up always said it’s not about how hard you throw, it’s where you throw it. I’ve always been more of a command guy than throwing it all over the place as hard as I can.”

The Irish will rely heavily on Norton this year as one of their weekend starters. In his first start of the season against Ohio State on Saturday, Norton was outstanding, going 7.0 innings and allowing three runs against the Buckeyes. 

True to form, Norton did not allow a walk against Ohio State.

Although he grew up just over an hour away from South Bend in Highland, Ind., Norton said he only began to seriously think about playing for Notre Dame once the team started showing interest in him.

“Being from the north, everyone playing baseball kind of has the dream of going south and playing in the nice weather and being able to play year round,” Norton said. “[Notre Dame] showed a lot of interest in me to come here and play. … Then once you come and visit the campus it’s a pretty tough place to turn down.”

Norton said he’s not fixated on any specific numbers as his goals this season. But he did echo the sentiment of several other Notre Dame coaches and players in saying he believes this team has a real opportunity to achieve memorable things in 2013.

“From where we’re at right now I’d say this is definitely the most talented team that I’ve been a part of in the last four years here,” Norton said. “I think that if we continue to improve throughout the year and play our game as opposed to trying to do too much, I think we can do some things here that haven’t been done in a while.”

There’s no doubt the Irish will lean on Norton in order for them to do just that.

Contact John Sandberg at jsandbe1@nd.edu