RICHMOND, Ky. — In the 100th season of WKU Baseball, it looks like Jake Sanford is
determined to put his name in the record books among the storied Hilltoppers from
the first 99 teams.
The junior right fielder from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, continued his hitting tear
with three homeruns and eight runs batted in on Tuesday night, leading WKU to a 12-9
victory at Eastern Kentucky.
Sanford became the first Hilltopper since at least 2005 (when game-by-game records
are available) to drive in eight runs, the first to hit three homeruns since Jordan
Newton against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on March 19, 2006, and only the fifth in the past
15 years with 12 total bases.
He is only the 13th player in Division I to hit three homeruns in a game so far this
“With Jake Sanford’s work ethic and the hard work of our coaches working with
him, it’s just amazing to see the results that have come in and what he has been
able to do. I’m just so happy for him, another great game where he came up big for
us,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “You know coming up here there are going to
be a lot of runs scored in this park, and facing a tough EKU team. I thought we
did a good job in these conditions playing defense and we handled the ball well.
“Defensively, Kevin Lambert saved us, and he has been doing that all year. Then
at the plate he had three hits today, so great game for him.”
Along with a 3-for-5 performance with two three-run homeruns, one double, five runs
scored and seven batted in Sunday’s 15-1 run-rule victory at FIU, Sanford has gone
6-for-11 with five homeruns, nine runs scored and 15 batted in over his past two
games. That’s a slash line of .545/.545/2.000 while accounting for 19 of the
Hilltoppers’ 27 runs scored.
Sanford now has 12 homeruns and 35 runs batted in on the season, with all 12
homeruns and 27 of those runs batted in over the past 15 games. Since the calendar
turned to March, he has posted a .356/.424/1.017 slash line, although his
.313/.395/.531 slash line in February is nothing to ignore.
Entering Tuesday’s slate of games, Hunter Bishop of Arizona State led Division I
baseball with 14 homeruns, with Sanford now matching the three players trailing him
who are tied for second at 12. Overall, his 35 runs batted in would tie for seventh
in the nation, while his .846 slugging percentage would rank eighth.
WKU trailed 5-2 after four before Sanford hit his first homerun of the day — a
towering solo shot to right-center field off EKU starter Jacob Ferris in the top of
the fifth — to push his season total to 10 and bring the team within 5-3.
In the bottom of that frame, the Colonels looked to add a crooked number after
loading the bases with zero outs against Hilltopper reliever Collin Lollar. But
Kevin Lambert had other ideas.
The shortstop slid to the six-hole to backhand a ground ball by Daniel Harris IV and
turn it into a 6-4-3 double play. Although a run scored in the process, WKU got two
outs on the board, and then a third when Lambert dove to field the next ground ball
— this time hit to his left, up the middle — and fire to first for a highlight-reel
out, keeping the deficit at 6-3.
In the sixth, Sanford capitalized for the second-straight game after an opponent
decided to intentionally walk Davis Sims in front of him, hitting a line-drive,
three-run homerun to right field off EKU reliever Jake Lewis for his second dinger
of the day. After a run had already scored in the inning, his 11th blast of the year
gave the Hilltoppers a 7-6 lead, which they would not relinquish.
Righty Jacob Green pitched scoreless sixth and seventh frames with the lead, while
righty Bailey Sutton recorded a 1-2-3 eighth.
Meanwhile, Sanford helped WKU to a five-spot in the seventh and a 12-6 lead,
launching his third homerun of the game — his first-career grand slam — to
right-center off EKU reliever Aaron Ochsenbein, which is no small feat. Ochsenbein
came into the game having pitched 17.2 scoreless frames with 30 strikeouts, allowing
only five hits and four walks in the process.
The Colonels scored three in the bottom of the ninth — even bringing the tying run
to the plate in the process — but righty Joe Filosa came in to get the final two
outs and secure the 12-9 victory for the Hilltoppers, who improved to a 12-11
Currently on a three-game win streak and boasting a 5-1 Conference USA record, WKU
returns home for a three-game series vs. Charlotte from March 29-31. The
Friday-to-Sunday series will have start times of 5 p.m., 1 p.m. and 12 p.m.