CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Riverside pitcher Cam Norris knelt beyond the third base line in Beckley, away from his gathering teammates and coaches, with tears in his eyes.
He was lamenting a poor outing just moments after last season’s Region 3 baseball championship game against Woodrow Wilson — a game which transpired much like most of Norris’ junior season.
Norris had given up seven runs — three earned — with seven strikeouts and three walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Flying Eagles, which advanced to the state tournament semifinals. All Riverside had to look forward to was a long drive back to Quincy.
“I was devastated,” Norris said. “We were really close for the second year in a row to get to states. It was a tough blow.”
The right-hander would cruise for two innings or so, get himself in trouble, then self-destruct.
His final season won-loss record was 2-6, his earned run average was 5.09 and, in 44 innings, he struck out 56 batters and walked 23. He gave up four earned runs or more in four of his nine appearances.
Norris had to learn how to handle success and failure, something he was taught ad nauseum by his grandfather, Paul “Duck” Keglor — who won back-to-back state baseball championships at East Bank in 1951 and 1952.
“Definitely,” said Norris, who is receiving interest from West Virginia State, WVU Tech and Bethany College. “That’s something (my grandfather) really talks about. I just have to realize that, after the inning is over, that pitch is over that you have to win the next inning and the next pitch. You left something high or you miss a spot, you have to realize that’s in the past and you have to work harder in practice and your off time to really focus.”
The 2014 season isn’t much of a struggle for Norris, who has yet to feel the despair of defeat or the disappointment of a big inning surrendered.
He’s cruising with a 4-0 record and, in 14 1/3 fewer innings, has three more strikeouts (59) than he had all of last year. His ERA is 0.71 with only six walks in 29 2/3 innings. After the graduation loss of pitching ace Tyler Hall, he has given the Warriors an arm to lean on.
Riverside owns an 11-5 record, but is still searching for that signature victory. The Warriors are learning how to win, for sure, but have lost by 10 runs to four of the nine Class AAA opponents on their schedule.
Norris has had to deal with a coaching change — two actually — and the departure of Chris Hawkins, the only coach he had as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Trey Barcus took over this season, but, according to sources, was suspended and resigned immediately following his reinstatement.
Enter Pat Vogelsang, an admitted baseball novice and history teacher at the school who considers himself a “co-coach” with assistant John Phares.
In the interim, Norris has just continued to baffle hitters with an effective fastball and a wicked slider.
“I was disappointed with not only losing the game but losing our coach,” said Norris, who calls most of his own pitches. “Coach (Pat) Adkins, (Alan) Betourne and Hawkins. Me and Chris had a really close friendship and bond outside of baseball. It was really tough knowing he wasn’t going to be here this year. After a couple weeks of that, I was ready to get back on the field and working hard for this year.”
There has been a lot of growing up in one season for Norris, who starts at shortstop and has only two errors. He’s batting .324 with five walks and 12 stolen bases. He also has been hit by pitches on seven occasions.
Being a leader has not added any pressure and is a title and responsibility Norris embraces.
“It just means that I’m the one who has to step up and let everyone know that it’s OK, keep pushing through and keep fighting,” he said. It gives somebody for everybody to look up to.”
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail