Shelby County duo wrap up successful junior college careers
By DANIEL PORTER / Staff Writer
Three seasons ago the greatest baseball team in Shelby County High School history walked off their home field after being knocked out of the playoffs by eventual state champion Spanish Fort.
The team had finished with a school’s best ever 22-10 record and went deeper in the playoffs than any Wildcat team had before in a season that Shelby Coach head baseball coach Shane Beasley says was “one of the best experiences of my coaching career.”
Among the seniors on that team who walked off that field for the final time were Kevin McNorton and Braten Dill, two Wildcat stars who hadn’t played their last baseball. Beasley said it was a pleasure to coach the duo and added, “When you put them on the mound to pitch or at the plate to hit you know you’re getting quality starts or at bats.”
McNorton, a pitcher and first baseman, and Dill, a pitcher and outfielder, both went on to play baseball at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. They joined the state powerhouse program under the leadership of National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Hall of Fame coach Randy Putman.
Coach Putman, who won his 800th career game in McNorton and Dill’s first season with the team in 2011, has a history of winning and finding talent. His former players include two of the top pitchers in MLB currently in Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves and Derek Holland with the Texas Rangers. “It helps with recruiting, you have one guy winning Rookie of the Year, and the other pitching in the World Series.” Said coach Putman.
Dill had 87 strikeouts in 78 innings pitched over his two years at Wallace State. Putman said Dill usually came out of the bullpen and got the team out of trouble often, “Braten was a major factor in our success.”
“Wallace was a great time in my life,” Dill said. “I played at one of the most prestigious junior colleges in the nation under a Hall of Fame coach.”
McNorton became more of a position player at Hanceville, although like Dill his pitching ratio was still more strikeouts than innings pitched. McNorton played more time at first base where he finished with a .980 fielding percentage. Coach Putman gave McNorton high praise saying, “If I had a son I’d want him to be like Kevin.”
“College baseball is tough but at the same time great,” McNorton said. “I’ve made friends that are like my brothers… we live, eat, laugh, and most importantly fight together every day for a common goal.”
Dill and McNorton helped Wallace State finish with an impressive 41-17 record in 2012, and total in their two year careers, helped the Lions win 63 games. Wallace State is only a two-year program and currently both guys are looking at their options for what they want to do next season.