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McKenzie begins quest for baseball title

Tony Norris is a jack-of-all-trades, coaching multiple teams at McKenzie School on a yearly basis.

But this week the juggling act will be tougher than it ever has the Tigers prepare for the ensuing spring training season as well as the first round of baseball playoffs.

Norris said that, as opposed to complaining about the poor timing or their bad luck, it’s time for him and the Tigers to put together the best hand out of the cards they’ve been dealt.

“I can remember as a kid doing double duty just like that, too,” Norris said.  “We’re just going to have to make the best of it and move on.”

Of the 14 players making up McKenzie’s varsity baseball team, half of them will be trading bats and mitts for shoulder pads and helmets to join Norris three days this week for the opening week of spring training.

To add to the Tigers’ worries, the team will cap off a vigorous week of practice with a Friday faceoff against a very tough J.U. Blacksher team—one that has already handed McKenzie a pair of convincing losses earlier in the regular season.

“They are a very good, fundamentally sound baseball team,” Norris said.

“They pitch well, they defend well and they hit pretty well, also.  It’s going to be a pretty good challenge for us moving forward.  But it’s just like I explained to them in the football playoffs—you’ve got to play the best teams.  It’s either first round or second round or third round.  Whenever it is, you’ve got to play the best teams.”

On the other side of the coin, the playoff season marks a fresh start for all teams.

While the Tigers would be remiss to not learn the lessons of their regular season losses, they’re also not going to dwell on the negatives.

“They got us pretty good,” Norris said.

“We played them during a stretch where we weren’t playing very well at all.  That happens sometimes in baseball where you go through periods where you like where you are, and there are times where it’s not very good.  We started out the season 7-1, but we finished the season on a downslide.  But hopefully we’re turning a corner again by winning two out of our last three.”

Though the Tigers will be focused on football for the three middle days of the week, the Tigers took to addressing their shortcomings against J.U. Blacksher at the top of the week.  The most necessary adjustment the Tigers need to make is also perhaps the simplest.

“We’re going to have to hit a good bit more than what we’ve been hitting in the past week of the regular season,” Norris said. “It’s going to be one of those things where to win, you’re going to have to be able to hit, and that’s true in any baseball game.  They have really good pitching, and we’re going to have to battle and fight off good pitches to get the ones that we want, so that’s going to be the biggest thing.

“From the defensive side, we didn’t defend very well the last two times we played them.  I made some changes defensively to try to help us, and I can see it coming together a little bit.  And also with pitching, we’re just going to have to throw strikes.”

The McKenzie Tigers will travel to face the J.U. Blacksher Bulldogs Friday at 2 p.m.