South Charlotte

Top pitcher also carries his weight at plate

Ardrey Kell junior Trent Thornton stands 6 feet tall, weighs 156 pounds and has the ability to make plays as a standout pitcher, centerfielder or hitter.

Thornton is the Knights' top pitcher, with a 7-0 record on the mound, and one of their top hitters, batting well over .300 with four home runs, seven doubles and 15 RBIs on the season.

"Trent Thornton is one of the top hitters and the top pitchers in the state at the same time," said Ardrey Kell coach Hal Bagwell. "He is a rare athlete that can be an elite pitcher and hitter and will be able to do both at the next level as well."

Thornton, who already has committed to play baseball for North Carolina in 2013, is a major part of an Ardrey Kell team that is currently 20-1, No. 34 in the nation (ESPN Rise FAB 50), No. 3 in the state and No. 2 in the Observer Sweet 16.

While Bagwell, Thornton and the Knights like to be recognized, the only thing they care about currently is getting back to the 4A state championship series, where they could make their third appearance in four seasons.

"We want nothing less than a state championship," Thornton said. "That's what we shoot for here. If we come up short, it will be a disappointment."

Whatever the Knights do, Thornton will be a big part of it. The junior has 49 strikeouts and two saves, with great movement on his array of fastballs (with speeds in the upper-80-mph range), curveballs and changeups. Thornton also bats cleanup for a Knight lineup that includes six other future college players.

"You don't see many 156-pound kids batting cleanup," Bagwell said. "But Trent makes things happen, and we need him to be in that spot for us."

Thornton said he likes the pressure of being the cleanup hitter, as well as getting the ball as one of two standout pitchers for the Knights with teammate Chris McCue (also a UNC commit).

"I like having the ball in my hands, being in control of the game as a pitcher," said Thornton, who also plays for the South Charlotte Panthers 2012 club. "But I also like being at the plate in pressure situations. I feel like if we need a big hit in a big situation, I want to get it."

Thornton has a lot of help at the plate, from seniors Logan Ratledge (N.C. State), Alex Leach (Appalachian State) and Brett Lang (UNC Charlotte), to name a few. The Knights will get an opportunity to be in a lot of pressure situations for the next month as the regular season closes with a trip to Sweet 16 No. 1 Providence on May 2, before the Southwestern 4A conference tournament and the 4A playoffs.

"We want to win all the time, but we don't really worry about the regular season," said Bagwell, whose team won the state title in 2009 and was runner-up in 2008. "We want to be playing our best baseball in May and June. That is all that matters to us."

If Ardrey Kell wants to win a title, a lot of pressure will be on Thornton's shoulders.

"I've always wished I was bigger, stronger; I always wanted be 6-foot-3," Thornton said. "But I have to play with what I've got. I think I am doing all right so far."