Thornton is a 6-0, 165-pound right handed pitcher and outfielder that hails from Charlotte, N.C. He is ranked No. 385 in the nation in the 2012 class and No. 12 in the state by Perfect Game while being the No. 10-rated player in N.C. by Impact Baseball. Thornton stars at Ardrey Kell High School for Coach Hal Bagwell and competed last summer with the South Charlotte Panthers.
“UNC came in late in the process,” Thornton recalled. “I [had already] received offers from NC State, ECU, App. State and Tennessee. It was late in November when I went up on my unofficial visit. We went up on a Friday and we spent six hours with all of the coaches actually -- Fox, Forbes, Woodard and Jackson. They sat down with me and we talked for a little while and went to a basketball game. It was by far the best experience of all the schools that I visited. They offered me there on the unofficial visit. So I went back home and a week later sat down with my high school coach and narrowed it down to NC State and Chapel Hill and went over the pros and cons of each school.”
Why North Carolina?:
“First of all I was very comfortable with all of the coaches. … It started off with Coach Jackson," Thornton discussed. “He is very easy to talk to and very nice to me. Then I got to know Coach Forbes and Woodard a little better. Coach Forbes is the man - I like him a lot. So they are just really easy to talk to because they know a lot about baseball and what they are doing. Whenever I need help with anything I give them a call.
“Next, one of the most important things is that I just fell in love with Chapel Hill and the academics - because it has one of the best reputations in the country, that is very important to me. Then you have the campus, which is amazing, and then to top it off with one of the best baseball programs in the country with an amazing facility.”
The right handed hurler throws a fastball in the low 90s in addition to a slider, curveball and change with feel and command of all four pitches. Forbes has been on record in a Perfect Game interview on the 2012 class comparing him to former Tar Heel hurler Patrick Johnson on the mound for both his competitiveness and electric breaking pitches. Thornton has a high ceiling for improvement as his velocity has improved dramatically during his prep career.
Thornton has excellent defensive instincts in the outfield and reads the ball well off of the bat in addition to having a very strong arm. At the plate he should hit for average and power and has an advanced feel for the strike zone and the mental aspect of hitting.
“Trent is going on his fourth year with us,” Bagwell said. “The first thing that comes to mind with him is how athletic he is. I told Coach Fox and Jackson that I really believe he can be a successful two-way player. That does not mean that it will work out but it does mean that he has the athletic ability to do that in the Atlantic Coast Conference. There are not that many kids that you can say that about. With that said his upside right now is pitching. He is very athletic and repetitive [on the mound]. He is one of the best athletes I have ever coached. His stuff works really well and he is loose and easy with it. He has some deceptiveness to him and you combine that with his competitive nature - he is an animal out there. His velocity has increased every year and I expect it to continue to increase. He has got a real high ceiling for improvement and he will be a credit to the University of North Carolina. He is great academic kid and a really smart guy with high integrity and character as well as a great teammate. UNC is getting a special kid and I expect him to compete early and continue their road to Omaha.”
“I have had some really good outfielders but he has instincts - he gets as good a jump on the ball as anybody,” Bagwell elaborated about Thornton’s play in the field. “He has tremendous awareness and feel for the bat. He gets the head there pretty quick and goes through the ball. He is tough to strike out and has some power and hit 8 home runs and was tied for third in our league. It is a battle night in and night out. With that he competes in the box and understands pitch counts and how to compete. He is special. I think he is going to be a guy that people will look at and pitch around.”
Two-way players are at a premium with professional scouts as they try to figure out where they will project higher and Thornton has not gone unnoticed so far with teams preparing for the Major League Draft in 2012. “I have had contact with a few teams,” Thornton stated. “I have gotten questionnaires from the Reds and the Mets and some letters from some other teams.”
However, Thornton is not sure where he would have to be selected in the draft or what it would take to detour his path from Chapel Hill so far, “I have not discussed this much with my parents yet,” he confessed. “But it would take a lot to keep me from going [to North Carolina].”
Thornton has discussed with the UNC coaches their plans for his future on the diamond. “They have told me that I have a good opportunity to be a two-way guy,” he said. “It is more likely that I will be a pitcher but I would love to be a two-way player since I have done that all my life. It is not easy but being a two-way player would be my dream.”
No matter what his future holds in Chapel Hill the right hander already has his sights set on his goals: “I want to make a big impact my freshman year and get some innings on the mound and show I can compete at this level,” he said. “I definitely want to play and start my freshman year. I want to go to Omaha and win a national championship - that would be amazing.”