2 WKU baseball players recognized by C-USA

Junior, first baseman Jake Sanford hits the ball during WKU’s game against UAB on March 16. Sanford was just named C-USA Hitter of the Week.

Kaden Gaylord

Junior right fielder Jake Sanford and freshman center fielder Jackson Swiney have earned Conference USA recognition for their performances during the 2019 regular season, the conference announced Tuesday.

Sanford was named the 2019 C-USA Player of the Year. Sanford becomes the eighth Conference Player of the Year in WKU baseball history, and its first in 15 seasons — Matt Gunning won it in the Sun Belt Conference in 2004.

Sanford also received the Newcomer of the Year award after coming to WKU from McCook Community College in Nebraska, while also being added to the First Team All-C-USA squad for his stellar play in the outfield.

Sanford is the second Hilltopper to ever earn Conference Newcomer of the Year, after outfielder Chad Cregar did it in the Sun Belt in 2008. He also is only the second player in Conference USA history to earn both Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year in the same season, joining Southern Mississippi’s Luke Reynolds, who accomplished the feat last season.

Sanford finished the regular season slashing .402/.488/.828 with 22 home runs, 19 doubles, 65 RBIs and 63 runs scored. Following Saturday’s finale, Sanford became the first Triple Crown winner in C-USA’s 24-year history by finishing the year with the lead in all three major statistical categories.

Last Thursday, Sanford was also named a Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist.

Swiney earned his spot on the C-USA All-Freshman Team, joining outfielder Luke Brown, who was named to the all-rookie squad last season. Swiney has been roamed center field for WKU since Opening Day, starting 49-of-53 games while having zero errors for the season.

Swiney heads into the C-USA Tournament slashing .264/.346/.438 with six home runs, 11 doubles, 34 RBIs and 29 runs scored. His six home runs are tied for second on the Hilltoppers, while his .438 slugging percentage ranks fourth on the team.

The freshman is only 1-of-29 C-USA hitters with at least six homers and 10 doubles.

Sanford and Swiney will lead the fourth-seeded Hilltoppers into battle against fifth-seeded Old Dominion in the team’s C-USA Tournament opener tomorrow night. First pitch from MGM Park in Biloxi, Mississippi, is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Baseball reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @_KLG3.