Former Wildcat pitches in College World Series

Shelby County High alum Kevin McNorton transferred to the University of Tampa for his senior season, a program with six national championships in baseball since 1992 at the NCAA Division II level, and three since 2006. (Contributed/Todd Montgomery)

Shelby County High alum Kevin McNorton transferred to the University of Tampa for his senior season, a program with six national championships in baseball since 1992 at the NCAA Division II level, and three since 2006. (Contributed/Todd Montgomery)

Daniel Porter/Special to the Reporter

A 2010 graduate of Shelby County High, Kevin McNorton, has followed his passion of baseball to the college level and recently played on one of the biggest stages.

McNorton transferred to the University of Tampa for his senior season, a program with six national championships in baseball since 1992 at the NCAA Division II level, and three since 2006.

The Spartans are familiar with success, but made history this spring with an unprecedented 47-2 run in the regular season to set the NCAA mark for best regular season record in any level of college athletics surpassing the 2000 Savannah State team that went 46-3. After postseason play, Tampa finished 54-4.

McNorton became the team closer and was the last man in for many of those victories. He made 29 appearances, all in relief, with 13 saves and a 7-0 record during the regular season. His 1.82 ERA was a team best.

McNorton credits a preseason exhibition trip to Cuba in late January for much of the season’s success. “As a whole, it brought us together and opened our eyes to what life is like in other places of the world that still love the game we do,” McNorton said. “It brought us to reality.”

When the season began on Feb. 1, it was McNorton making his Spartan debut with two innings pitched picking up his first save in a 2-1 win. The moment still remains one of his favorites for the season.

Tampa won the Sunshine State Conference championship and hosted the NCAA South Regional sweeping four games to advance to the Division II College World Series in Cary, N.C. McNorton closed out three of the four wins defeating his former team, Stillman, seventh ranked Delta State, and No. 20 UAH.

Tampa lost to eventual champion Southern Indiana in the World Series. The Spartans reached the semifinals before elimination.

Though the outcome wasn’t what Tampa had hoped, McNorton can still appreciate getting a chance to play for an NCAA national championship. “I’d never been able to play for anything like that before in my career and to have a big part in it really just makes it that much more special,” he said.