DALLAS, Texas (WBKO) --- Former WKU Baseball outfielder Jake Sanford has been named the 2018-19 Michael L. Slive Conference USA Male Athlete of the Year, the league announced on Friday.
Sanford is the fourth Hilltopper student-athlete to be named C-USA Male or Female Athlete of the Year over the past five seasons, following Volleyball’s Alyssa Cavanaugh in 2017-18, Football’s Brandon Doughty in 2015-16 and Softball’s Miranda Kramer in 2014-15. He is the seventh Baseball player to be honored by the league in 16 years of the award’s history.
Sanford came to The Hill from McCook Community College and put forth one of the best campaigns in WKU Baseball program history. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, native set numerous records, accumulated multiple All-American accolades and earned C-USA Player of the Year honors. He started all 56 games while playing every single inning in the outfield, slashing .398/.483/.805 with 88 hits, 178 total bases, 22 homeruns, 20 doubles, 66 runs batted in and 65 scored.
With a .402 batting average, 22 homeruns and 65 runs batted in heading into the 2019 C-USA Tournament, Sanford became the first regular-season Triple Crown winner (batting average, homerun and runs batted in leader) in the league's 24-year history. He led all Division I hitters with a .805 slugging percentage, and ranked second with 178 total bases and tied for sixth with 22 homeruns when the Hilltoppers’ season ended.
Sanford’s 66 runs batted in and 65 scored both finished ninth on WKU’s single-season charts, while his 22 homeruns rank fifth. From March 2-to-8, he became the first Hilltopper in 13 years (Jordon Newton in 2006) to hit a homerun in four consecutive games. On March 25 and April 1, he became only the third player in league history to earn back-to-back C-USA Hitter of the Week honors. With 106 total bases in 30 league games, he established a new C-USA record, surpassing Ryan Jones, who had 103 in 2004.
In addition to being voted C-USA Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and a First Team outfielder, Sanford racked up numerous national postseason accolades. The ABCA, the NCBWA, Perfect Game/Rawlings, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, www.D1Baseball.com and 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast named him a First Team All-American, while Baseball America listed him as a Second Team All-American. In addition, he was as a semifinalist for the 2019 Dick Howser Trophy.
At the 2019 WKU TOPSY Awards, Sanford was awarded the John O. Oldham Male Student-Athlete of the Year and won Best Male Record-Breaking Performance for hitting 14 homeruns in the month of March.
The New York Yankees selected Sanford in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft with the 105th overall pick on June 4. He became the 57th Hilltopper taken in program history, including the fourth-highest overall. Two days later, he put ink to paper at New York’s facility in Tampa, Fla.; with a signing bonus of $597,500, he became the 111th WKU player to sign with a Major League club.
Sanford joined righty Ben Morrison (2018, Los Angeles Angels), outfielder Jacob Rhinesmith (2018, Washington Nationals) and outfielder Anderson Miller (2015, Kansas City Royals) as active Hilltoppers in minor league baseball. He started his professional career at the Class A Short Season Staten Island Yankees, and has hit 4-for-13 with a .308/.400/.538 slash line in his first four games.