After three years at the junior college level, Thornhill brings instant offense to the Shocker lineup


Mia Hennen

Junior Sawyre Thornhill bats at home plate on March 27 in Eck Stadium. The Shockers won, 6-3.

After his first season with Angelina College, Sawyre Thornhill had just committed to South Carolina, one of the top college baseball programs in the country. It was a dream fit for Thornhill but it soon turned into a nightmare situation.

With the canceled spring season in 2020 due to COVID-19, South Carolina had more players slated to come back than anticipated. Which left Thornhill without a spot on the roster and out of options. 

With most Division-I programs in a similar roster situation, Thornhill decided to return to the junior college level but this time at a new school. Thornhill transferred to Northeast Texas Community College where he led the team in batting average (.375) and slugging percentage (.647).

Now, for the second time in three years Thornhill had to find the next Division-I program to take a chance on him. One phone call with Wichita State Assistant Coach Mike Sirianni sealed the deal for Thornhill to commit to the Shockers.

“That’s why I’m here,” Thornhill said. 

In his debut season with the Shockers, Thronhill has made an instant impact at the plate, reaching base in all 21 games he’s played in. Thornhill also had a 19-game hitting streak — the longest hitting streak at WSU since 2004 — which was snapped last Friday against Creighton. 

Thornhill said that the experience that he gained while playing at two junior colleges has allowed him to make this smooth transition at WSU.

“To be around some guys that are going through the same stuff that you’re going through is a big deal,” Thornhill said. “It makes you mature as a man and having the experience coming into a D1 is a lot better than a high school kid coming to a D1.”

Sawyre Thornhill celebrates with Xavier Casserilla after scoring a run during WSU’s game against South Dakota State on March 13 inside Eck Stadium. (Sean Marty / The Sunflower)

Thornhill has settled into the No. 3 spot in the Shocker lineup and currently possesses the second-best batting average (.301) and on-base percentage (.379) on the team. The Huntington, Texas native also leads the Shockers with five doubles. 

On top of the offensive production he’s provided, Thornhill has played at three of the four infield spots, along with both corner outfield positions.

“Well he’s been our best hitter offensively and you know he really gives himself a chance with every at bat,” Head Coach Eric Wedge said. “He’s a versatile player. He can play second. He can play third. He can play the outfield. So he’s a guy that we can really rely on in the middle of our lineup.”

Even with the offensive success he’s had throughout his collegiate career, Thornhill said he’s focused on contributing in any way possible. Thronhill has played in and started in 21 of WSU’s 22 games, the second most by any Shocker this season.

“I just go up there and try to help the team in any way possible,” Thornhill said. “If it’s hitting a fastball, if it’s getting a bunt down, if it’s getting a sac fly in. I’ll do anything to help my team.”

Thornhill said that he’s been able to learn from WSU’s experienced coaching staff throughout this season, which has made the transition to WSU even smoother. 

“They’re a great coaching staff,” Thornhill said. “Wedge, he’s been through everything so he’s real strict but has that laid back type of mentality. [Sirianni]’s a real good infield coach. [Mike] Pelfrey played in the big leagues, [Loren] Hibbs has been here. It’s all a big family so it’s a pretty good atmosphere and I love to be here.”

Sawyre Thornhill takes a swing during WSU’s game against Kansas on March 23 inside Eck Stadium. (Sean Marty / The Sunflower)

Thornhill has been a catalyst in WSU’s midseason resurgence following an 0-6 start to the season. The Shockers have weathered the storm, going 6-4 including a Frisco Classic Championship in large part due to Thornhill’s production.

Since the six-game losing skid to open up the season, Thornhill is hitting .280 at the plate with three multi-hit games over that stretch. Thornhill said that once everything clicks up and down the roster, they can still reach their preseason goal of making an NCAA Regional.

“I think that we’ve just got to get our hitters going again,” Thornhill said. “We kind of slowed there, our pitching still needs to come up and we have some guys that have been struggling but they come out and compete every day. If we can string together the hitting, pitching and defense then we’ll be pretty good.”