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Tigers battle injuries, fast turnaround

With the ink barely dry on the basketball books at McKenzie, a number of student athletes have switched jerseys and taken to the diamond this week for the commencement of baseball season.

Similarly, there is no offseason for McKenzie head baseball coach Tony Norris.  As a coach of three sports with little to no break in between, the end of winter and the beginning of spring can be a frantic time of year.

Fortunately, it’s a labor of love.

“I enjoy spending time with the kids we have here at McKenzie,” Norris said.

“It’s one of those things where I don’t mind coaching three sports.  And with a small school like ours, we have kids that do the same thing.  They play football, basketball and baseball year round.  It’s one of those things were we just take a deep breath and say ‘here we go.’”

The extremely quick turnaround has caused no shortage of complications, though, especially when the state added a week to basketball season as well as baseball season.

But there is a silver lining.

“We don’t play our first area game in baseball until late March,” Norris said.

“For these games that we’re playing right now, we’re just going to try and get better and get ready for late in the season.  I’ve got two other teams in my area, and those are the games we’re focusing on and wanting to win.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t want to win the other ones.  But those four or possibly five area games are important for us going to the playoffs.”

Norris, who is entering his sixth year as head baseball coach, proved that non-area wins are just as important with a thrilling victory over the Hillcrest-Evergreen Jaguars Thursday night.

Norris hopes the early win will serve as a springboard for the team’s confidence and momentum in lieu of a short preparation period.

The Tigers only lost three starters from last year’s team, and Norris’ entire pitching staff is set to return, though one of the four—senior Condie Pugh—remains out of commission due to an injury sustained at the tail end of basketball season.

The relatively inexperienced McKenzie Tigers of last year consisted mostly of sophomores, though Norris suspects that last year’s trials and tribulations will make for a much more seasoned team in 2016.

“Condie is optimistic that he’ll be back late in the year, and we’re holding a spot for him while moving on at the same time,” Norris said.

“But mostly everybody that’s playing has played for me before, and they’re doing a good job of trying to learn and being coachable.”

The McKenzie Tigers will reenter the fray today in a Butler County round robin tournament with both the Georgiana Panthers and the Greenville Tigers.