A blend of the new and familiar ended wonderfully for the Spartans Friday.
Norman and winning pitcher Carlee Clark had key hits in St. Francis' decisive four-run fifth inning. The Spartans, making their first state appearance, went on to beat Bishop McNamara 6-2 in the Class 3A state semifinal, also the third meeting this season between Metro Suburban Conference rivals.
Norman was 2-for-3 and reached base three times and Clark had two hits for St. Francis, which advances to play Sycamore, a 12-11 winner over Mt. Zion in nine innings, in Saturday's 11:30 a.m. state championship game.
That sounds good to St. Francis coach Ralph Remus, who won his 466th career game in his first at state.
His Spartans, making their state debut, hardly played like it.
"I think they've come to expect to win by now, and I'm not surprised," said Remus, ever happy-go-lucky himself. "Good for them."