After maintaining a complicated on-again, off again relationship all season, sophomore righthander Tim Norton and his change-up were reunited in the College of William and Mary’s (12-17, 3-6 CAA) 2-1 victory over Liberty University (21-9) Tuesday evening at Plumeri Park.
After leading the Tribe in ERA last year, a change in Norton’s mechanics led to early season struggles and an unseemly 8.80 ERA before Tuesday night.
“I was a little inconsistent with my mechanics; I was all over the place,” Norton said. “Now that I’ve been settling down, I’ve been working really hard in practice. A lot harder than I’ve ever been working, to get back to where I was.”
Tuesday night it showed.
Liberty hitters flailed at Norton’s changeup early, weakly grounding three of the first six outs to senior Tyler Stampone at third base. The Flames first hit did not come until the fourth inning, when a bloop single fell in front senior Jeff Jones who was playing deep in leftfield.
“Liberty’s hitters are awfully aggressive,” Head Coach Frank Leoni said. “I really felt that if Tim could locate his change-up, he was going to get a lot of early outs.”
Norton took a 2-0 lead into the eighth, holding the Flames to two hits until getting pulled with two on and none out for sophomore righthander Logan Billbrough.
Norton barely had time to sit down before Jones, having been moved closer to the infield by Assistant Coach Tim Park, charged a single by Liberty’s Curran Redal and made the play of the game.
Jones’ throw one hopped freshman catcher Chris Forsten and cut down the Flames’ Tim Rotola at the plate, limiting Liberty to one run in the inning and preserving the lead.
“I was hoping he’d make that play. I mean that was a perfect throw, a perfect one-hop throw to Chris and Chris got the ball, made the tag and blocked the plate,” Norton said. “You couldn’t ask for a better play.”
Billbrough pitched a perfect 9th for his second save of the season.
Senior Rob Nickle went 1-3 with an RBI while Stampone went 1-2 and reached base three times.
But the story of the night was Norton, who gave a performance as brilliant as it was necessary for the young Tribe rotation.
“Tim is obviously pitching a lot better than he was and he’s getting back to the form he showed us in the first half of the season last year,” Leoni said. “He was able to get ahead of hitters and force them to hit his pitch. That’s really the difference in Tim Norton right now.”