Freshman pitcher Trent Thornton throws strikes, has team's back

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Trent Thornton threw seven innings Tuesday and gave up five hits, all of them singles.

In Tuesday night’s matchup with the North Carolina baseball team, Princeton’s coach could not find a solution. He tried four times. But with each of the four pitchers he inserted into his lineup, the Tar Heels simply could not be stopped offensively.

For North Carolina coach Mike Fox, those feelings of frustration could not have been more foreign than they were in Tuesday night’s 16-0 thrashing of the Tigers, as he watched freshman pitcher Trent Thornton play beyond his years.

“He throws four pitches for strikes — he can— and that’s unusual for a freshman. He’s not just a two-pitch guy. His fastball’s a little sneaky — he throws a slider and a breaking ball, which is also a little unusual,” Fox said.

“Usually a description like that would be for a sophomore or junior who’s got more than what, four starts under his belt?”

But Thornton is not the typical freshman pitcher for several reasons.

He enjoys the luxury of not only throwing to someone he trusts, but to someone he lives with.

Freshman catcher Korey Dunbar is Thornton’s roommate, and after a shaky start, a short mound-talk with a familiar face was all Thornton needed.

In the bottom of the third inning, Dunbar —knowing exactly what his roommate was thinking— ran to the mound, exchanged a few words and returned to the plate. The chat was brief, but effective.

Thornton immediately struck out Princeton’s Steve Harrington, and Dunbar knew his friend was on the brink of one of his strongest performances this season.

In the ensuing four innings, Thornton only allowed two hits and concluded the night only letting up five hits — all singles.

“I just told him to kind of calm down, that the ball’s on his side of the court. Us being roommates, we kind of have a close relationship so we kind of know what each other are thinking, and he’s a great pitcher,” Dunbar said.

“He kind of just settled in and started throwing like he normally does.”

And for Thornton, who said he struggled to maintain control in the early innings, the exchange with Dunbar relaxed him and helped him find the strike zone, leading to quick outs and fast-paced innings.

“I just kept my fastball low in the zone and they were either taking it or swinging right through it, so the fastball was a pretty good pitch today,” he said. “(Dunbar) told me ‘You know, you’re fine. Just relax, calm down. Do what you do.’’’

“He has my back; I have his back.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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