Tom Thornton's five-hit shutout versus Southern Illinois yielded his fifth career BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week honor (photos by Pete LaFleur).

Tom Thornton Named BIG EAST Pitcher Of The Week For Fifth Time In His Career

March 21, 2006

Notre Dame senior lefthander Tom Thornton (Middleboro, Mass.) has been named the BIG EAST Conference baseball pitcher of the week for the fifth time in his career, after recording a five-hit shutout of Southern Illinois to cap Notre Dame’s 7-1 record during Spring Break in San Antonio. Former Irish great Aaron Heilman (10) is the only player in BIG EAST history to total more pitcher-of-the-week honors than Thornton, who received the award twice as a sophomore, once as a junior and once previously this season.

A look through the recent boxscores also has revealed that there now have been 13 nine-inning solo shutouts by Notre Dame pitchers in the 12-year Paul Mainieri era – and Thornton is one of four who have posted multiple nine-inning solo shutouts in the Mainieri era (the others to do so include Danny Tamayo with three and Heilman and Dan Stavisky with two each). During the past four seasons, Thornton is the only Notre Dame pitcher to post a nine-inning solo shutout – a span of 249 games dating back to J.P. Gagne’s three-hitter vs. BYU on April 1, 2002 (1-0).

Thornton – a strong Academic All-America candidate who owns a 3.54 cumulative GPA as a double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater – also joins Heilman (4 in 2000, 3 in ’99, 2 in ’01) and former Boston College righthander Chris Lambert (3 in ’03, 2 in ’04) as the only pitchers to earn repeat BIG EAST weekly honors in multiple seasons.


Tom Thornton’s pinpoint control has yielded 16 strikeouts and just one walk in 26 innings during his four 2006 starts.



With nine weeks still remaining in the 2006 regular season, Thornton has the chance to become the sixth different BIG EAST pitcher to earn three-plus BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week honors in the same season. The others include Heilman (4 in ’00, 3 in ’99), Lambert (3 in ’03), former West Virginia ace Chris Enochs (3 in ’97) and former St. John’s standouts Keith Stamler (3 in ’99) and Anthony Varvaro (3 in ’05).

Thornton posted his 23rd career win and fifth complete game of the past two seasons in the victory over the Salukis. The 6-foot-6 team co-captain did not walk a batter while holding SIU to five hits (.167 batting avg.) in an economical 84-pitch outing that included 64 strikes and just 20 balls (an average of 2.2 pitches out of the strike zone per inning). He added a pair of strikeouts, faced just 31 batters (four over the minimum) and held SIU to 1-for-10 batting with runners on base plus just 1-for-9 with 2-outs. The quick outing included 12 groundball outs, three infield popups/foulouts and a runner caught stealing. He allowed just three runners to reach scoring position, including only one that advanced to third base.

The final win in San Antonio improved Thornton’s record to 3-1 in 2006, with his season totals also now including a 3.12 ERA (15th in the BIG EAST), a .258 opponent batting average (25 hits), 16 strikeouts and just one walk in 26 innings. He dropped his career walk ratio to 1.89 walks per nine innings, sixth-best in Notre Dame history and fourth-best among pitchers with 150-plus innings.

His 21 career wins are tied with his former teammate Chris Niesel for 12th in the Notre Dame record book and are the fifth-most wins of any pitcher in the Paul Mainieri era (since ’95), behind Heilman (43-7), Darin Schmalz (30-13), J.P. Gagne (25-16) and Alex Shilliday (25-17). The other six all-time Notre Dame pitchers with more than 21 career wins include an impressive collection of early-1990s talent: Tom Price (40-10), Chris Michalak (34-13), David Sinnes (32-8), Alan Walania (30-12), Brian Piotrowicz (27-17) and Pat Leahy (25-7). Thornton also ranks 8th in Notre Dame history with 43 career games started and stands 10th with 276.1 innings pitched.

Thornton’s strong pinpoint control to start the 2006 season has put him on pace to challenge Tom Price’s Notre Dame records set in 1994 for strikeout-to-walk ratio (12.14; 85/7) and low walk average (0.49 per 9 IP; 7/127.2) – with Thornton’s current stats including a 16.0 K-to-walk ratio and 0.35 BB per 9 IP.

Thornton was named BIG EAST pitcher of the week earlier this season after beating Indiana State on Feb. 23, scattering five hits in his seven shutout innings while notching five strikeouts and no walks in action at USA Baseball Stadium in Millington, Tenn. That 76-pitch outing saw Thornton locate 74-percent of his pitches for strikes (56) while registering nine of his outs via groundballs. He held the Sycamores to 0-for-8 batting with runners on base and allowed just one hit with 2-outs (1-for-8).

Thornton – who will next start on Sunday vs. Georgetown (in Bethesda, Md.) – earned his first BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week award (Feb. 23, 2004) as a sophomore, after the 3-1 win at USC (six-inning complete game due to rain; UER, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks). He then became Notre Dame’s fifth pitcher ever to repeat the BIG EAST honor in the same season (March 15), after shutting down hot-hitting Texas Tech with 8.0 one-hit innings at the Round Rock Classic (3 BB, 7 Ks).

His other previous BIG EAST weekly award came as a junior (April 11, 2005), in a 3-2 complete game versus Boston College, held in his home state (Brockton, Mass.; 9 IP, 8 R, R, 5 Ks, 14 groundouts, retired first 11 batters, 60 of 96 pitches for strikes).


Tom Thornton is one of just four Notre Dame pitchers in the Paul Mainieri era to post multiple nine-inning solo shutouts in his career.



Thornton’s other nine-inning solo shutout came in the six-hitter at WVU on March 27, 2004 (4-0), with two walks, five strikeouts, nine groundball outs, three infield popups, 34 batters faced and 75 of 111 pitches for strikes (he allowed multiple baserunners in only the 5th inning).

The Notre Dame program now has produced 31 BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week recipients in the past 11 years, the most from any of the league’s schools during that stretch. In addition to Heilman (10), Thornton (5) and three-time honorees Scott Cavey (’99-’00) and Danny Tamayo (3; ’01), ND’s previous BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week recipients include three two-time honorees – J.P. Gagne (in ’02 and ’03), Chris Niesel (both in ’03) and Grant Johnson (both in ’04) – plus Christian Parker (’96), Brad Lidge (’98), Alex Shilliday (’98) and Peter Ogilvie (’02).

ND’s NINE-INNING SOLO SHUTOUTS IN THE MAINIERI ERA – Tom Thornton (’05 and ’06) has joined Dan Stavisky (’96), Danny Tamayo (1 in ’00, 2 in ’01) and Aaron Heilman (’01) as the four pitchers who have posted multiple nine-inning solo shutouts during the 12-year Paul Mainieri era … the 13 nine-inning solo shutouts in the Mainieri era also include the strong efforts of Darin Schmalz (’95), Gregg Henebry (’95), Christian Parker (’96) and J.P. Gagne (’02) … Thornton and Henebry are the only LHPs on the list … five on the below list have not walked a batter in their solo shutouts: Parker, Stavisky (2), Gagne and Thornton (vs. SIU) … four on the list allowed just three combined hits/walks in their solo shutouts: Parker, Stavisky (vs. Pitt), Tamayo (vs. SJU) and Gagne … the fewest batters faced in a Mainieri-era 9-inning solo shutout: Stavisky (28, vs. Pitt), Schmalz (30), Tamayo (30, vs. Mississippi State and SJU) and Gagne (30) … the most Ks in a 9-inning solo shutout during the Mainieri era: Parker (11), Stavisky (10, vs. Pitt), Heilman (9, vs. FAU), Tamayo (9, vs. SJU) and Heilman (8, vs. Pitt) … here’s the list of ND’s 9-inning solo shutouts from 1995-2006:

* 3/11/95 … ND 3, George Washington 0 (in San Antonio) – RHP Darin Schmalz (4 H, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 30 BF, one runner past 2B)

* 4/22/95 … ND 6, Illinois-Chicago 0 – LHP Gregg Henebry (3 H, BB, HB, 6 Ks, 31 BF, no runners past 2B)

* 4/21/96 … ND 7, at Georgetown 0 – RHP Christian Parker (3 H, 0 BB, 11 Ks, 5.1 no-hit start, no hit to OF until 2-outs in 9th)

* 4/30/96 … ND 2, Pittsburgh 0 – RHP Dan Stavisky (3 H, 0 BB, 10 Ks, 28 BF)

* 5/17/96 … ND 4, St. John’s 0 (BET; Norwich, Conn.) – RHP Dan Stavisky (6 H, 0 BB, 4 Ks)

* 5/28/00 … ND 7, at Mississippi State 0 (NCAAs) – RHP Danny Tamayo (3 H, 1 BB, K, 10 GO, 30 BF, 105 pitches, took no-hitter into 7th)

* 3/2/01 … ND 3, Florida Atlantic 0 (in St. Petersburg) – RHP Aaron Heilman (5 H, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 11 GO, 4 IF popups/lineouts, rundown, 32 BF, 111 pitches)

* 3/12/01 … ND 3, New Mexico 0 (in Fresno, Calif.) – RHP Danny Tamayo (3 H, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 8 GO, 34 BF, 122 pitches)

* 3/23/01 … ND 3, at Pittsburgh 0 – RHP Aaron Heilman (2 H, 4 BB, 2 HB, 8 Ks, 16 GO, 32 BF, 108 pitches, bloop 1B and 1B thru the infield)

* 4/28/01 … ND 5, at St. John’s 0 – RHP Danny Tamayo (2 H, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 14 GO, 30 BF, 75 of 107 pitches for strikes, bunt single)

* 4/1/02 … ND 1. BYU 0 – RHP J.P. Gagne (3 H, 0 BB, HB, 7 Ks, 8 GO, 6 IF popups, 30 BF, 71 of 108 pitches for strikes)

* 3/27/04 … ND 4, at West Virginia 0 – LHP Tom Thornton (6 H, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 9 GO, 3 IF popups, 34 BF, 75 of 111 pitches for strikes, multiple baserunners only in the 5th)

* 3/18/05 … ND 4, Southern Illinois 0 (in San Antonio) – LHP Tom Thornton (5 H, 0 BB, 2 Ks, 12 GO, 3 IF popups/foulouts, 31 BF, 64 of 84 pitches for strikes, 3 runners in scoring position/1 reached 3B)