Before Doug Norman ever put on an Ardrey Kell varsity baseball uniform or earned a spot in the starting lineup, he understood the expectations that go with wearing the Knights’ jersey.
After watching former Ardrey Kell standouts like Chris McCue (now at North Carolina), Trent Thornton (UNC) and Logan Ratledge (N.C. State), Norman says he formed a vision for his own Knights’ career as a freshman while splitting time with the junior varsity and varsity teams.
Nearly four years later, Norman, 18, is a Louisiana State signee and one of the players that his peers and younger teammates look up to.
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound all-state senior pitcher and third baseman is 9-1 on the mound with 87 strikeouts and an 0.63 ERA, and he is hitting .329. Norman and the nationally-ranked Knights (26-2) won the SoMeck 8 Conference championship this season. Friday at 7, Ardrey Kell will play host to MECKA 4A Conference co-champ North Mecklenburg.
Norman’s fastball reaches 92-93 miles per hour. According to multiple publications, he is ranked among the top players in the country. And Norman is a Perfect Game honorable mention All-American and first team All-Southeast Region.
The senior’s intensity matches his high level of production on the field.
“When it’s game day, especially on my day to pitch, I am in a whole different mode; no one really even talks to me,” Norman said. “I’m going to go out there and do whatever it takes to get the win.”
Ardrey Kell coach Hal Bagwell, who has coached dozens of major Division I college baseball players, has watched Norman develop into an elite player.
“Doug has a very similar mentality and work ethic to guys like Trent (Thornton),” Bagwell said. “He’s the ultimate competitor and a special player, who rises to the occasion and likes the challenge of a pressure situation. He’s not going to say a lot, but he will get up and there blow a pitch by you for a strikeout or come to the plate and get a big hit.”
Norman has made big plays throughout his Ardrey Kell career, one of his biggest coming during Senior Night on May 2 against defending 4A state champion South Mecklenburg.
In that final regular-season home game, Norman tossed a four-hitter on the mound and struck out 11 batters. His fourth-inning, three-RBIs single broke open a tight game, helping the Knights pull away for a 6-1 win over the Sabres and clinch their third straight conference title.
Norman is one of many talented players in Ardrey Kell’s lineup, which includes N.C. State signees Logan Beehler and Zach Featherstone (six home runs), and sophomore Aaron Pilkington, who has hit a school-record of 13 home runs this season.
Norman is also the ace of a deep pitching staff with Beehler (6-1), Kollin Schrenk (6-0), Henry Ryan (UNC commit) and closer Carter Love (College of Charleston signee).
“At Ardrey Kell, every year our expectations are to (be) the best in the conference and the best in the state,” Norman said. “We’ve done that in the regular season in the last three years, but we’ve also lost in the first round of playoffs, and we’re not doing that again. We feel we’re should be a state (championship) contender every year, but obviously we can’t overlook anyone.”
Norman has played summer ball with the South Charlotte Panthers, which features 18 Division I recruits. Even on a team with all-star talent, Norman’s ultracompetitive nature stands out.
“Doug is an unbelievable competitor in every way,” South Charlotte Panthers coach Don Hutchins said. “He is very focused and mature beyond his years. He not only has all the physical attributes with length and size, but he understands the mental side of the game. He knows how to pitch, not just how to throw.”
Norman is already thinking about his future at LSU, where he reports in early June – potentially the same weekend as the 4A state championship series.
Norman’s mother, Siona, as well as several aunts and his grandmother, went to LSU. He has been going to baseball and football games in Baton Rouge since he was little.
He was originally committed to University of Georgia but decided against it when the coaching staff changed.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Norman said. “I’ve always been a huge LSU fan, and so I feel like everything that happened to lead me there was supposed to happen. I can’t wait to go down there and get started.”
Bagwell and Hutchins said they wouldn’t be surprised if Norman made an immediate impact.
“LSU is a big-time program with a lot of talent, so it’s not going to be easy, and he is going to have to earn everything,” Bagwell said. “But I think he thrives in that kind of situation. I don’t think he has even scratched the surface of how good he can be. As he grows into his body and his strength catches up (with his size), his velocity and talent are going to be off the charts.”
While he has learned from many great players along the way, Norman wants to make his own mark.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with some of the best players in Charlotte and across the country and learned a lot,” Norman said. “But when I’m out on field, I’m going to be myself. I’m completely doing Doug Norman.”
This story originally appeared in South Charlotte News/newsofsouthcharlotte.com
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