Nathan Thornhill’s excellence puts Texas baseball back on the map

Evan Berkowitz

Not too many pitchers can throw a complete game, allow just one run and still manage to suffer an increase in their ERA.

But that’s exactly what happened to senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill on Sunday afternoon against Oklahoma that resulted in an 8-1 win.

He went the distance, pitched a gem — and his ERA climbed from 0.73 to 0.78.  

“You know you’re the man when you only give up one run, and your ERA goes up,” sophomore reliever Chad Hollingsworth tweeted. “[Thornhill] is that dude.”

But the road for Thornhill — who was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week on Monday — to get there took some turns. After being selected by the Houston Astros in the 24th round of the MLB Draft, Thornhill spurned them to return to Texas in an attempt to put the Longhorns back on the map after a low year.

And that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s anchored a staff that ranks No. 6 in the nation in ERA. His Big 12 leading and national top-10 0.78 ERA definitely helps that. Texas is 29-8 and No. 6 in the nation. The Longhorns are back on top of the Big 12, and their confidence is at an all-time high.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Thornhill said. “We know what our plan is at the plate. We know what our plan is on defense and pitching, and, if we go and execute that, the game should come out in our favor.”

Thornhill has allowed just four runs in seven starts. And all this for a guy who, at one point, wasn’t even in the opening weekend rotation, finding himself behind junior pitcher Lukas Schiraldi.

He began to settle into the pen, with a real possibility of taking over the closer role. In eight relief innings, he allowed just one run while recording two wins and two saves.

After a few starts for Schiraldi went sour, Thornhill regained his spot in the rotation and hasn’t looked back. He has already recorded a career-high six wins this season without even losing one. His WHIP is below one, and his opponents are hitting just 0.168 against him.

But Thornhill doesn’t let the hype get to him, as he’s still focused on improving.

“Last year, I started to kind of figure out what kind of pitcher I was and then just [built] upon that this year,” Thornhill said. “I’ve just continued to work with [pitching coach] Skip [Johnson] and listen to him because I need to be a sponge when he’s talking.”

When Texas faces UT-Arlington on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Disch-Falk Field, Thornhill will be resting his arm, watching Schiraldi deal and getting ready for this weekend’s series against TCU. 

“It is a lot different,” Thornhill said. “It is a lot more fun. I think that is the biggest part. With the wins, come more fun. You like that feeling, and you don’t want to have the other feeling.”