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Norton enjoys stellar softball career with Simpson U.
Former Ceres High softball standout Ryan Norton collected a program-record 198 hits during her four seasons with the Simpson University softball tem. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Ryan Norton wasn't always a standout in softball.

The 2011 Ceres High grad failed to earn a roster spot on the Ceres Sizzle 10-and-under A-team during her childhood.

"That definitely motivated me," said Norton, who had to compete at the B-level. "It lit a fire under my butt. I played with a chip on my shoulder. That's what it took for me to be successful on the field. My friends were better than me and I wanted to be as good as them. I worked and worked and worked. I achieved everything I wanted and more."

Norton went on to star at Ceres High and recently completed her softball career with Simpson University.

"I'm beyond happy," she said. "I put 110 percent into everything I did and that showed in my success. I don't regret anything."

Norton batted leadoff, played in center field and was a team captain during her senior year with Simpson University, which amassed a 36-17 overall record and captured its fourth straight California Pacific Conference crown (13-3).

In 49 games, Norton hit .388 with three homers, three triples, 15 doubles, 37 runs, 32 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

She ranked first on the team in hits (69), triples and doubles, second in runs and stolen bases, and third in homers and RBIs.

Norton was selected to the Cal-Pac's All-Conference Team.
"We had a really successful season," she said. "I'm very satisfied."

Gene Norton, Ryan's father and former coach, took time off from his job with Cobb Transport so he could attend all of her games this past spring.

"I'm so thankful I have the support system I have," said Ryan, who pointed out her mother Kellie made it to half of her games. "It's going to be there for the rest of my life. My father helped shape me into a better player. He always believed in me even if I had a bad game. We'll always be close. I call him on a daily basis."

"I used all of my vacation time," Gene said. "I put a lot of miles in. It was absolutely worth it. I totally enjoyed watching her play."

Norton had a memorable four-year career at Simpson University.

She had a breakout season her junior year.

Ryan was selected to the NAIA All-American Second Team
She was named to the NAIA Softball All-World Series Team.

She also earned NAIA Scholar-Athlete and Cal-Pac Conference Player of the Year honors.

Norton batted .474 with two homers, one triple, 19 doubles, 47 runs, 38 RBIs, nine stolen bases, a .647 slugging percentage and a .506 on-base percentage while starting every game for the 39-9 Red Hawks.

She ranked in the top 20 in the nation in four offensive categories, including sixth in doubles per game (.396), 11th in total doubles (19), 17th in hits per game (1.542) and 18th in batting average (.477).

Simpson won its third straight Cal-Pac Conference crown, knocked off defending national champion Concordia of Irvine twice (9-7, 7-2) en route to claiming the title at the NAIA Western Regionals and advanced to the World Series for the second time in program history.

Norton batted 4-for-6 with three doubles and one run at the World Series. The Red Hawks lost 15-2 to Oklahoma City and 3-2 to St. Gregory in Georgia.

Ryan hit .248 with one homer, one triple, six doubles, 22 runs, 21 RBIs and three stolen bases at the bottom of the lineup as a sophomore.

She had a .333 batting average, to go along with three doubles, nine runs and eight RBIs, in 26 games during her first season with Simpson University.

Ryan singled up the middle in her first and last at-bats.

"I'm very satisfied," Norton said. "I played to win every single game. That was my mindset. I was aggressive. My outfield coach (Tom Ackernecht) called me a honey badger. I put 110 percent into everything I did when I was on the field. It became an addiction. I was living, eating and breathing softball. I had fun the entire time."
Norton ranks first on Simpson University's all-time hits list with 198.

She broke two-time All-American Chelsea Dunn's record of 195. Ryan and Chelsea were teammates for one season (2014).

"I was two short of 200," Norton said. "I didn't even know I achieved that. Coach Ackernecht called me a few days after the season ended and told me. I'm just really glad I could leave my name and mark at the university. I'll be remembered as a leader."

Ryan's softball career spanned 14 years. She took up the sport at the age of eight.

Norton suited up for several travel ball teams throughout the years, including the Sizzle, Tri-County Smash and California Grapettes.

"My dad signed me up for a recreational league when I was eight," Norton said. "It was the first sport I ever played and something I stuck to my whole life. Softball taught me a lot of life lessons. I got to travel. I made a lot of memories and friendships."

Norton will graduate from Simpson University in December.
She'll earn a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Ryan currently works as a veterinarian assistant at Cat's Cradle Boarding & Grooming in San Rafael.

"I'm ready for the next stage of my life," Norton said. "I'll find out what else I'm good at. I'm definitely going to miss playing. There's nothing like warming up for a really important game."

"I couldn't be more proud of her," Gene said. "She always kept working at it. She'd hit when we got home. I had friends that had batting cages we'd go to three times a week. She made a name for herself in this area. She became one of the premier players in the NAIA."