As the college baseball regular season draws to a close, let’s take a look at some bats that performed better than expected in 2019.
Hunter Bishop, Arizona State
The junior outfielder will certainly have his name come up when both the Dick Howser and Golden Spikes decisions are made. Bishop, who never hit higher than .301 or slugged more than five home runs in either of his first two seasons has been on fire since day one and really hasn’t slowed down a bit.
HUNTER BISHOP, MY GOODNESS 😱pic.twitter.com/c4shq9ma8n— Arizona State Sun Devils (@TheSunDevils) May 8, 2019
Bishop has been one of the top run producers in college baseball. He’s in the top 20 in runs (60) and RBI (58) while his 21 home runs are second-best in Division I. Bishop has done that while posting a 1.307 OPS, and of equal importance, has committed just one error in center field. All that, and his team-high 11 stolen bases are a bonus.
Kody Hoese, Tulane
Hoese had a nice sophomore campaign, improving a .213 freshman batting average to .291 with 20 extra base hits and a .803 OPS. Those numbers are minuscule to what the junior third baseman has done in 2019.
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Baseballs don’t stand a high survival rate when approaching Hoese at the plate. He’s hitting .405, tied with Bishop for second with 21 home runs on the season. He, too, has been an elite run producer, driving in 55 and scoring 61 more. His 1.324 OPS is amongst the best in college baseball, and he holds down a solid hot corner for the Green Wave as well.
Tristan Peterson, New Mexico State
You can take your pick, as the Aggies have an offense that is pretty much unrivaled in 2019, scoring 11.3 runs per game behind an astounding .361 team average. Joey Ortiz has seemingly come out of nowhere and Tristen Carranza continues to improve after putting himself on the map with a big 2018 WAC tournament. Nick Gonzales has stolen much of the limelight in the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser conversation with big follow up to his WAC freshman of the year season. But let’s take a look at the junior first base transfer that has been everything the Aggies had hoped for, and probably a lot more.
Peterson leads college baseball in driving in 1.67 runs a game and his 72 total are third best in the division. He’s one of three Aggies hitting over .400, and his 17 home runs are second-best on the club, as is his 1.321 OPS. The entire Aggies lineup has seemingly broken out, but Peterson’s a new presence in the lineup, and a welcomed one at that.
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Jake Sanford, Western Kentucky
Oh, Canada! The Nova Scotian native went from junior transfer to the Golden Spikes midseason watchlist, with a national hitter of the week award along the way. The outfielder had an impressive tenure at McCook Community College, but he’s been doing straight damage for the Hilltoppers.
The ball just sounds different off Jake Sanford’s bat.— Brad Stephens (@BradBGDN) May 4, 2019
Here’s the Nova Scotian’s 20th HR of the season, a grand slam to put WKU up 8-3 over Rice in the 6th inning. 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/TzPhgQjok9
Sanford is doing it all, hitting .420 with 57 runs scored, 20 home runs, and 62 RBI, all of which are top 20 marks in DI college baseball. He also has 17 doubles and has been nearly perfect in right, making just one error while throwing out five runners. Western Kentucky’s overall record isn’t shiny, but a 14-9-1 mark in Conference USA has Sanford and the Hilltoppers in the hunt.
JJ Bleday and Austin Martin, Vanderbilt
Hard to imagine a guy that hit .368 in 2018 could actually be a break out star for the streaking Vandy Boys, but Bleday has gone to a new level in 2019. Technically speaking, Bleday’s breakout started last summer in the Cape Cod Summer League and the hits, as they say, keep rolling.
Bleday missed over a month last season with an oblique injury, but showed this season that along with making solid contact, he can make big contact. He leads Division I with 23 home runs, scoring 61 runs and driving in another 61 for the Commodores. He looks like he’s catching fire for the end run as well, with three multi-hit games in his last four. In a year of big-hitting outfielders, Bleday may be the best one of the bunch.
As for Martin? The sophomore had a big debut season in 2018, but this year has been even better. He’s hitting .431 and he’s set his career highs in doubles (15), triples, (4), home runs (5), runs (62), and RBI (32) in becoming a dangerous table setter for one of college baseball’s most dangerous lineups right now.
Last week was filled with lots of "WOW! What a play!"— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) May 9, 2019
You don't want to miss these Top Plays! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/093bcEaOXO
Kyle McCann, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has a few breakout stars this season. Luke Waddell is proving to be a viable shortstop in the field and at the plate while Michael Guldberg leads the ACC in hitting. But Kyle McCann was given the dubious task of being the next great catcher at Georgia Tech, and he’s lived up to those lofty standards in 2019.
McCann’s bat has led the way. The junior had a strong sophomore campaign, spending time at first base and designated hitter while Joey Bart held down catching duties. McCann has returned to his backstop position in 2019, and his bat has exploded. He’s hitting .311 with 19 home runs with a 1.185 OPS. His home runs have been some of the biggest, both in game-winning fashion and behemoth style with a memorable moon shot at SunTrust Park against Georgia.
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Greg Jones, UNC Wilmington
Jones had a nice debut for the Seahawks in 2018, showing he could do a little of everything. He has shown no signs of the feared sophomore slump, and is showing that he can do it all.
He can play anywhere, showing improved defense at short and that he can serve as DH in a pinch. Jones can hit where the Seahawks need him, whether it's leadoff or in the five-hole. Thus far, he has posted a career-high slash line of .341/.487/.525 with nine doubles, six triples, four home runs, and 34 stolen bases, all while cutting his strikeout total from 2018 by more than half and increasing his walk rate. Jones has truly been a menace to opposing teams.
Jason Hinchman, Tennessee Tech
Here’s what we know about Tennessee Tech: Someone is going to hit a lot of home runs and find themselves in the home run champion race. In year’s past it’s often been more than one, but this year, Hinchman has stolen the show.
OVC Baseball ⚾ Player of the Week: @TNTech_Baseball INF Jason Hinchman (@JHinch24)— OhioValleyConference (@OVCSports) March 11, 2019
• .538 (7-13), 9 runs, 2 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 1.615 slugging%, .647 OB% as team went 3-1 during the week#WingsUp pic.twitter.com/winbNKzHpJ
Hinchman took a back seat last season with Chase Chambers at first but has jumped into the heart of the Golden Eagles lineup showing off the power that’s become known at Bush Stadium in Cookeville. He’s hitting .283 with 21 home runs and a 1.124 OPS. Tennessee Tech hopes it only gets better from its sophomore slugger.