BILOXI, Miss. (WBKO) --- WKU Baseball junior Jake Sanford was named 2019 Conference USA Player of the Year, the league announced Tuesday afternoon. Votes were compiled from each head coach and sports information director, as well as one designated media voter from each market.
The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, native becomes the eighth Conference Player of the Year in program history, and first in 15 seasons. The Hilltoppers have had four Conference Pitchers of the Year, all coming in the Sun Belt.
All-Time WKU Baseball Players of the Year
1978 Ohio Valley Conference: Jim Atkinson, OF
1980 Ohio Valley Conference: Mike Murray, INF
1981 Ohio Valley Conference: Mike Williams, INF
1991 Sun Belt Conference: Chris Turner, OF
1993 Sun Belt Conference: Bill Weyers, 1B
1999 Sun Belt Conference: T.J. Freeman, 1B
2004 Sun Belt Conference: Matt Gunning, OF
2019 Conference USA: Jake Sanford, OF
The transfer from McCook Community College (Neb.) also took home Newcomer of the Year honors and earned his place as 1-of-3 outfielders on the All-Conference USA First Team.
Sanford is the second Hilltopper to earn Conference Newcomer of the Year, joining outfielder Chad Cregar in the Sun Belt 2008. Meanwhile, he is only the second student-athlete in Conference USA history to earn both Player and Newcomer of the Year in the same campaign, joining Southern Miss’ Luke Reynolds last season.
He is the fifth WKU player to get a spot on the Conference USA First Team since the Hilltoppers joined the league prior to the 2015 season, joining outfielder Anderson Miller in 2015, designated hitter Kaleb Duckworth and third baseman Danny Hudzina in 2016, and outfielder Jacob Rhinesmith in 2018.
Sanford is slashing .402/.488/.828 for the season with 22 home runs, 19 doubles, 65 runs batted in and 63 scored. He became the first hitter in the league’s 24-year history to lead all three major categories for the Triple Crown.
On May 16, he was named a Dick Howser Trophy Semifinalist. Earlier in the campaign, he was listed on the Golden Spikes Midseason Watch List and earned a spot on the Perfect Game/Rawlings Midseason All-American First Team.
Sanford has hit at least one home run in 12 consecutive weekend series, with a pair of dingers in six of them. In five games against Power Five opponents, Sanford is 7-for-17 with three extra-base hits and a .412/.444/.765 slash line. In 18 plate appearances against www.D1Baseball.com’s top 100 pitchers, Sanford is 7-for-16 with four extra-base hits and a .438/.500/.813 slash line.
Outfielder Jackson Swiney earned his spot on the Conference USA All-Freshman Team, joining outfielder Luke Brown who was named to the all-rookie squad last season. The St. Louis, Mo., native has been WKU’s center fielder since Opening Day, starting 49-of-53 games while playing errorless baseball in 101 total chances.
Swiney is slashing .264/.346/.438 for the season with six home runs, 11 doubles, 34 runs batted in and 29 scored. His six long balls are tied for second on the Hilltoppers, while his .438 slugging percentage ranks fourth on the team.
The freshman is only 1-of-29 Conference USA hitters (of any class) with at least six dingers and 10 doubles. He had career games at Belmont on April 16 and at Austin Peay on May 14, with multi-homerun efforts in the game; he had a career-high six runs batted in against the Bruins, while tallying a career-high 10 total bases and four runs scored against the Governors.
WKU hits the field for team practice at MGM Park on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the team’s 2019 Conference USA Tournament first-round matchup vs. Old Dominion. First pitch between the No. 4 Hilltoppers and No. 5 Monarchs is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22.