The country-wide sports shutdown has left college softball player Bella Norton in a unique win-win situation.
The McLean resident was a four-year starting catcher for the Indiana University women’s softball team, having her senior season cut short this spring after only 23 games because of the COVID-19 outbreak. With the NCAA making the decision that seniors who had their seasons cut short can return to play a fifth season next year, Norton said she would like to do so, depending on extended scholarships or grants.
If that can’t be worked out, Norton will begin her goal of coaching softball, eventually on the college level. She already has a job at a Tysons facility to coach.
The McLean High School graduate, where she was a standout girls softball player (first-team all-state), is back at home taking online courses to finish her senior season this spring.
“Each college is on its own as far as scholarships and financial aid,” Norton said. “I am optimistic Indiana will give aid to fifth-year players, and if so, I will go back to play one more year and begin working on a graduate degree.”
Norton said she and teammates learned the 2020 season was cut short after a game in Florida. They noticed parents of players were crying in the stands and taking pictures and videos they normally would not be taking. The parents already learned the news.
“We noticed all of that and figured the rest out pretty quickly,” Norton said.
If Norton’s college playing career is complete, she had an impressive four years. She amassed 100 career hits, of which seven were home runs. She drove in 56 runs, had 24 doubles and started 153 games.
In the 21 contests she played as a senior, Norton batted .300 and had five doubles. She had two hits in her second-to-last game to reach 100. As a junior, Norton batted .269 with three homers and 24 RBI.
Her yearly fielding percentages were always lofty.
“It was an honor to be the Indiana catcher for four years,” Norton said.
More importantly than her solid statistics, Norton was considerably satisfied and proud of the big improvement Indiana made the past three seasons, and the team’s big culture change.
“We got a new coach [Shonda Stanton] my sophomore year, and she pushed us to the limits,” Norton said. “We were ranked 19th and 24th my junior year and we started putting Indiana softball on the map. We were gritty and were going the extra step. That was one of my goals there to make an impact and help change the program.”
Whenever Norton’s college playing days do come to an end, she plans to stay involved in the game by coaching.
“I want to come back to this area and help elevate and grow the level of softball on the East Coast, and give young players the best opportunity they can to do that,” Norton said.