On Saturday afternoons last spring, there was a cacophony of familiar sounds ringing through Swayze Field in Oxford: aluminum can tabs popping open, baseballs whipping the leather on the mitts, the PA booth booming the starting lineups from home plate to the Lyceum. One sound was unfamiliar on those Saturdays, the muffled rumblings from fan-to-fan about “this Trent guy.” No one knew much about “this Trent guy,” as patrons peddled what knowledge they had of the southpaw amongst themselves. That was until they saw him pitch.
Christian Trent, a native of Madisonville, Louisiana, was a standout pitcher for St. Paul High School just an hour north of New Orleans. He was 27-7 in his three years on the varsity squad, including 9-3 with a 1.24 ERA and 90 strikeouts as a senior, earning his way onto the 5A All-State team. The New Orleans Metro Pitcher of the Year received the offer that every young Louisianan baseball player covets, the LSU Tigers.
After spending a year on the “developmental squad” at LSU, Trent opted to transfer, deciding that Baton Rouge was not the place for him to continue his baseball career. He enrolled in nearby Delgado Community College where he thrived for the Dolphins, posting a 9-2 record and 2.77 ERA, striking out 72 in 74.2 innings of work in his only season with the team. The interest in the Louisiana lefty was immense and he ultimately decided that Oxford was the place he would call home and finish out his collegiate playing days.
Trent impressed the coaches in the fall and given the departures of Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, the 2013 Friday and Saturday starters respectively, to the draft, there were openings in the rotation. Sophomore Chris Ellis took the Friday night gig while Trent was given Saturday. He understood the importance of being a Saturday starter and thrived in it so after Ellis left for the draft in June, Trent was given the reins as the Friday Night guy.
“On Saturday you anchor the series, it’s either to win the series or to tie it up,” Trent said. “Friday night is a bigger role, where you get to start everything off right and get your team to 1-0 that weekend.”
By no means did Trent back his way into the Friday night role. His 2014 numbers out outstanding, racking up a perfect 9-0 record in 17 starts, including a complete-game-shutout against Auburn. The 6’0, 205 Lb. pitcher led the team in strikeouts with 86 and was second behind Ellis in innings pitched at 110. His best performance of the year came in the College World Series against Texas Tech with the Rebels facing elimination. Trent went eight scoreless innings, striking out six and walking just one en route to a 1-0 Rebel victory. That ability to pitch in big moments will serve him well as he prepares for a big game each time he takes the mound.
“Every Friday night it’s one team’s best against the other team’s best,” he said. “Everyone’s fired up to get that win and the best pitcher usually comes out on top.”
A few years removed from the deadening of the bats in college baseball, the NCAA is looking to pump a little life back into the offensive side of the game by bringing in new baseballs. Batters have ranted and raved about the difference the balls have made in their game with the occasional lamenting from pitchers. Trent disagrees with the perceived effect of the new balls.
“I don’t know that they make that much of a difference, I mean, we’re going to be a strong offensive team regardless,” he said. “But as a pitcher, if you make the pitch you’re supposed to, then there’s no issue.”
Despite an outstanding 2014 campaign, Trent was not selected until the Los Angeles Dodgers came calling in the 29th round. While he didn’t mention anything regarding upgrading his draft position in the future, he does have personal goals for this season in Oxford.
“I want to be pitching every Friday and have at least 15 quality starts,” he said. “You want to get through the year and then take off in the postseason, and ultimately all I want is for us to win it all.”
When you have as successful of a year as Trent had in 2014, it’s easy to get complacent. That isn’t in the cards for the staff ace, as he worked relentlessly this offseason to improve his repertoire.
“I’m a fastball, changeup, slider pitcher. Last year, sometimes I would have two of the three working, but I’ve worked on my slider location to allow me to have all three,” he said. “When you have all three working early in the games, there’s less stress on you because it takes longer for the lineup to get adjusted.”
Trent will have four out-of-conference opportunities to work on his pitches and location before SEC play begins on March 13. It’s not just any conference opener either as the Rebels will take to the road to face their rival LSU Tigers down in the Bayou. Facing his old team in front of a raucous Alex Box Stadium crowd is something “that Trent guy” is more than prepared to do.
“I’m really looking forward to that one. I’ll be ready.
Michael Quirk is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.