Former Science Hill baseball players Daniel Norris and Kevin Nelson were posing as post-graduate workers on campus Tuesday.
Norris was on hand to receive his Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year award, and Nelson was there to sign to play baseball at Virginia Intermont.
Norris, a left-handed pitcher who has signed with Clemson and could still sign with the Toronto Blue Jays by Aug. 15, was recognized by Gatorade for his merit on and off the field.
“That’s a really good award, because they don’t just look at your numbers,” Norris said, “they actually look at the individual.”
Toronto will take a thorough look at Norris today in Florida. He is scheduled to have a physical, including an MRI.
“I’m flying out tonight, will get it done tomorrow and fly back Thursday,” Norris said. “They’ve called me directly three times — the scouting director — and set up the MRI and just asked how summer’s going. I haven’t talked money or anything at all. It’ll probably be in the next 5-10 days.”
Norris struck out 123 batters in 682â„3 innings while going 8-2 with a 2.24 ERA as a senior at Science Hill. Among the triumphs was a win at Farragut, which won the Class AAA state championship.
Also an exceptional center fielder, the 6-21â„2, 190-pound Norris hit .402, tied Nelson for the team lead in home runs (nine), was second to Nelson in RBIs (46, 45) and was second to Will Craig in walks (29, 27) during Science Hill’s 31-9 season.
Nelson, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound first baseman, powered his way to Virginia Intermont. The finishing touch might have been hitting a home run in V.I. territory at an FCA All-Star game in June at Boyce Cox Field in Bristol, Va.
Along with leading Science Hill in home runs and RBIs, Nelson hit .363. He had a clutch home run in victories at Farragut and against Dobyns-Bennett in the District 1-AAA tournament, and should have been named to the All-District 1-AAA team.
Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said Nelson delivered since the day he hit a tape-measure home run in a spot start against Murfreesboro Riverdale midway through his junior season.
“I hit that ball pretty good,” Nelson said with a smile. “But that one I hit it against Boone last year was pretty far, too.”
Edwards foresees Nelson parlaying his size and work ethic into a productive college career.
“Kevin’s going to do great there (at Virginia Intermont),” Edwards said. “He’s just a game-changing type bat, as we saw in the D-B game, the Farragut game and just throughout his whole career. … We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg of what he can do.”
Nelson was also a capable lineman on the football field, and received some interest from Marvyille.
“I don’t know if I’ve got the passion to play football anymore,” he said.
Nelson is the fourth Science Hill baseball player to sign from this class, joining Norris (Clemson), second baseman Zach Thompson (East Tennessee State) and right-handed pitcher Will Carter (East Tennessee State).
As for Science Hill’s future, Edwards said Craig, a rising junior, is having a productive summer. Craig, a right-handed pitcher with a quick bat, was 7-2 with a 3.25 ERA as a sophomore. He was second among Hilltoppers behind Thompson in batting (.453,.443), third in home runs (eight), tied for second with Norris in runs (43) and led the team with 29 walks.
“He’s definitely getting some big looks,” Edwards said.
Other returning Hilltoppers who had encouraging summers are right-handers Andrew Sweeney and Matt Pope (The Edge), and versatile Heath Loyd, who’s played with Larry Simcox’s Knoxville-based teams.
Loyd, also a right-hander, was 4-1 on the mound with two saves and a 2.71 ERA as a junior at Science Hill. He struck out 22 in 202â„3 innings.
Sweeney also had two saves, and struck out 50 in 35 innings. Pope had 13 strikeouts in 131â„3 innings.
Trey Williams is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.