Adam Norton, a right-handed workhorse for the Fighting Irish baseball team, is 4-5 this season in 14 starts. With the Fighting Irish (29-25 overall, 14-13 Big East) unable to produce a run in a 4-0 loss at Connecticut to end the regular season on May 19, Norton dipped below .500 but has contributed far more than his record indicates this season.
Notre Dame enters the Big East Championship today as the No. 7 seed and takes on No. 2 St. John’s at 1 p.m. in Clearwater, Fla. Norton, a Highland, Ind., native with a 4.45 ERA and team-leading 91 innings of work this season, threw a complete game shutout (6-0) against Villanova on May 5 — the first Irish hurler to do so since Eric Maust blanked West Virginia on April 18, 2009. According to the most recent statistical update from the NCAA on May 20, Norton ranked third nationally in Division I in strikeouts-to-walks ratio (8.43).
“I think the biggest thing is just staying in the strike zone and commanding all my pitches,” he said. “You don’t want to shy away from throwing to contact, you just want to trust the defense that’s behind you, and if you give up a couple runs, know that the offense is going to be there to pick you up.
“I don’t have a power fastball or some kind of breaking pitch that everybody’s going to swing and miss at, so I kind of have to live off the fact that I can spot up and switch speeds. That’s something I’ve been doing my whole career.”
Norton transitioned from a weekday starter to a weekend starter at the beginning of this year. The plan wasn’t to shoulder the most innings, he said. That’s just the way it worked out this spring.
“I think we have pretty good confidence in all our starting pitchers,” said Norton, who fills a weekend slot along with senior Will Hudgins and freshman Pat Connaughton. “Some days guys are going to go short and some days guys are going to go long. Two starts before [the shutout] I think I only made it into the fourth [inning] and got pulled.
“With all of our guys, if somebody comes up short, you don’t have to go out there and have a superhuman outing, but you need to pick up the bullpen because they had to throw a lot the day before. Everybody on our pitching staff comes out and throws the best they can that day.”
“You want that feeling on any team that if you mess up, the guy behind you is going to pick you up. It’s not always perfect.”