BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- The name Jake Sanford is one that has been ringing around the NCAA as one of the most lethal batters across the country. The Western Kentucky outfielder has been titanic in his first year of Division I baseball. In fact, he’s been so good that the baseball scouting website, Perfect Game, listed him as a Midseason First Team All-American.
The Nova Scotia-native has backed up his accolades with the second most home runs and the fifth most RBI across DI. With these numbers, it’s almost inconceivable that as a high school senior, Sanford had no college offers as he tried to get any college coach to take a chance on him.
Sanford said, “I just started sending emails out to everybody. I basically just had to market myself and send videos out of myself. That’s pretty much how I got here.”
The WKU junior grew up isolated from baseball culture on the far east coast of Canada in Nova Scotia. He stacked up well against competition in high school as a three-time All-Region player, but there was little to no opportunity for exposure to college coaches. In his four years of high school, Sanford was only able to attend one college showcase in Toronto, which is a 17-hour drive from his hometown.
Eventually, a tiny community college in McCook, Nebraska took the chance and extended the former first baseman a walk-on offer. Sanford had everything to prove in his freshman season if he wanted to make a career out of baseball, and he approached that fall with the same mentality.
Sanford said, “When I showed up in the fall I have to lay everything out there to get a scholarship. I had to work hard every day in the weight room, on the field, and in the classroom.”
His work ethic impressed the coaching staff so much that he received a scholarship during the winter break of his freshman year. Sanford built on that momentum in his sophomore season when he broke the school record for SLUG percentage.
Sanford finished his sophomore year with high hopes for his future after being listed to the all-region team. Still, with little exposure in southern Nebraska, he was forced to take the initiative by sending his highlight reel to college coaches. Eventually, interest arose from the Hill of Western Kentucky University.
Head Coach John Pawlowski said “The biggest thing about Jake is how he has remained confident in his ability and consistent in his approach. He’s a down-to-earth person who is a tremendous student-athlete here at WKU and we’re glad to have him.”
Sanford was a little unsure of himself in his game as a Hilltopper, but quickly found his typical coldblooded demeanor. He remained consistent through his first two weeks with a .285 batting average which is slightly better than the average division I batter.
Sanford said, “The first game I was a little nervous, but after that I just tried to stay even-keeled.”
The man they call Nova eased into a rhythm at the plate but sparked a fire at the Cox Invitational in Jacksonville, Florida. Sanford went yard twice in that tournament, but it was the crushing homer straight down centerfield against Tennessee that had him surging with confidence.
Sanford followed that weekend with one of the greatest hitting displays in the history of Hilltopper baseball. The following weekend he had two four-hit days against Memphis including a home run against Memphis. Then in late March, the right fielder had a trio of dingers against EKU that helped break the school record with 8 RBI in a single game!
Sanford’s legendary month of March created a lot of hype around the slugger. He was named the National Hitter of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He also rewrote a bit of history as the first back-to-back Conference USA Hitter of the Week since 2006.
Sanford has set a tremendous example with his initiative in carving out a career in collegiate baseball. He was given a small chance in baseball as he came from a non-existent baseball culture in Nova Scotia, Canada. Through a strong work ethic and self-perseverance in recruiting, The Nova Scotia Slugger has busted his way through every step of adversity and opened the door to become a Hilltopper legend.
(Nathan Yazdani contributed to this story)