Sanford’s own Thomas Harrington capped off a stellar regular season in his first year at Campbell University with a Big South Conference Freshman of the Year award after going 5-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 13 starts. Photo courtesy of Campbell University Athletics.

It’s been a year of good surprises for Campbell University freshman pitcher Thomas Harrington.

A Sanford native and former standout in football and baseball for Southern Lee, Harrington expected to take a redshirt year for the Camels to build up his strength to pitch at the Division 1 level. Coming off a hand injury from football, he expected to hit the weight room and come out next season ready to play.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, he surprised even his new coaches. By the time the season rolled around, he had earned himself a spot in the Campbell pitching rotation.

“When I committed, the feeling was that I was underdeveloped,” Harrington said before the Big South Tournament on May 27. “The coaches wanted me to redshirt and get in the weight room and see how I developed. I guess I progressed faster than they thought I would. I thought I may be a bullpen arm. I never thought I’d be starting on the weekend.”

Harrington made an immediate impact for the Campbell pitching staff, joining the weekend rotation during the first series and making a team-high 13 starts, going 5-2 with a 2.94 ERA, the lowest among Big South freshman starting pitchers. He posted the third lowest ERA and fourth lowest opponent batting average in the conference among qualified starters. He was named the Big South Conference’s Freshman of the Year for his stellar season – yet another surprise.

“I knew I was in the conversation for it, but I didn’t expect it at all,” Harrington said of the award. “Coach (Justin Haire) came to me after practice and said, ‘Congratulations Big South Freshman of the Year.’ I had no idea.”

The righty is the fourth Camel to be named Freshman of the Year and the third Campbell pitcher in a row to earn the honor, joining Reggie Davis (1994), Logan Bender (2018) and Ryan Chasse (2019).

“Tommy has been a huge cog for us this year,” Haire said. “He’s pitched in every spot in the weekend rotation and the bigger the stage the better he’s prepared and performed. This is just the beginning for him.”

After winning the honor, Harrington came up big in the Big South Tournament to keep his team’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive on May 28. The Camels lost their first game and were tied in the fourth inning of their next game against USC-Upstate, a loss in which would have sent them home. But Harrington came in in relief and threw 5.1 innings of shutout ball, striking out four for the win.

The Camels earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the final of the Starkville, Mississippi, Regional. After a tough opening game loss, Harrington dazzled on short rest in the final, tossing the final 5 innings allowing just four hits and one run while striking out three to keep the Camels within striking distance. But the Camels lost 6-5 to end their season.