JOHNSON CITY — Having coached high school baseball for some 40 years, Dobyns-Bennett’s Mike Ritz has learned to appreciate quality players regardless of the uniform they wear.
Science Hill flame-baller Daniel Norris pitched a one-hitter and struck out 16 batters — including four in one inning — as the Hilltoppers beat the Indians 3-1 on Monday night.
“Goodness gracious!’’ Ritz said, walking across the infield after the game. “What about that! Norris is special. Maybe I could be his agent.
“He lit it up tonight and had movement on his pitches. The only way we could have done much with that was to have moved the mound 10 feet back.’’
Norris, whose fastball was clocked at 93 mph in the first inning and 91 in the last, walked one batter and struck another with a pitched ball. D-B got just four baserunners.
The only D-B run came in the fourth when Nick Loughry’s sizzling grounder took a bad hop on first baseman Will Craig. An outfielder threw away the ball and Loughry continued around the bases.
“That ball had eyes and ears on it,’’ Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards told Norris when he came back to the dugout.
Norris has been rated the nation’s top junior prospect by a major publication.
The 6-foot-1 left-hander has a 3-0 record and a 0.70 earned run average. He runs from home plate to first base in 3.85 seconds.
“My curve was feeling real good tonight,’’ Norris said. “I used it to get the batters off balance. It was a fun game against one of our big rivals, D-B. (The Indians) have some sticks in that lineup — Nathan Millsap and Nick Loughry.’’
Norris explained that all of that zip on the ball doesn’t come from his arm. “I worked hard last summer to build up my legs. A lot of it is in my legs. I didn’t use my arm so much in the late innings.’’
Norris struck out 18 in a district tournament game last season.
Edwards, who has chosen to pitch his prize pupil only once a week this season, said: “It was more than just velocity tonight. Daniel had it going on both sides of the plate. His breaking pitch was better than it has been. For a guy who’ll be only 17 years old later this month, he is very mature. We’re having him keep everything at an even keel.’’
Norris recorded four strikeouts in the third. One batter reached base when a third-strike pitch hit the plate and bounced to the backstop screen.
Ritz, whose team dropped to 14-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big 8 Conference, wasn’t particularly upset over losing on this day.
“I was pleased, except that our pitchers walked too many batters,’’ he said. “It was a good game. We battled them, as we always do. Science Hill is our big rival — we’re everybody’s rival.’’
Greyson Janeway’s double following Craig’s single and a walk gave Science Hill a 2-0 lead in the second inning. The Hilltoppers (12-8, 6-2) added another in the fifth on an infield hit, a walk and Craig’s bad- hop single.
The losing pitcher was starter Jake Bellamy. Two relievers followed him.
“We’ve been throwing our pitchers in tandem and winning,’’ Ritz said. “We’ll have Kyle Brandon and Peyton Taylor on the mound against David Crockett Tuesday.’’