WICHITA, Kan. – Brock Rodden has been named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Loren Hibbs has been named Coach of the Year, highlighting the conference’s 2023 year-end honors announced Monday.
All told, nine Wichita State players were honored, including league-best five on the First Team All-Conference (RHP Grant Adler, RHP Clark Candiotti, 2B Brock Rodden, OF Chuck Ingram and UTL Payton Tolle). Two Shockers made Second Team (LHP Jace Miner and OF Kyte McDonald), and two others were tabbed to the All-Freshman Team (INF Jack Little and RHP Nate Snead).
“I’m so proud of all our players recognized by the conference,” Hibbs said. “This group has shown up every single day willing to learn and compete, these awards are a testament to their outstanding work ethic. I also want to acknowledge the role of the entire staff in our success this season, their efforts are every bit as deserving of this award as my own. Our program continues to make significant progress and I am happy for all our players. We are excited for the opportunity to compete this week in the AAC tournament.”
Hibbs led the Shockers to a 30-win season and third place in the American Athletic Conference standings, matching the program’s best finish since joining the conference in 2018. Under Hibbs’ direction, Wichita State has claimed five AAC series, the most in school history, including WSU’s first series wins at Cincinnati and Tulane. The Shockers bested Oklahoma twice for the first time since 2006 and swept the season series from Kansas State for the first time since 2012. WSU also swept #7-ranked East Carolina, the program’s first sweep over a top-10 team in more than 30 years.
Hibbs is the first Wichita State coach to be named conference Coach of the Year since the legendary Gene Stephenson won the award in 1998. Wichita State leads the American in batting average (.304), hits (560), and doubles (118), while ranking second in ERA (4.39), walks-per-nine innings (3.31), and WHIP (1.33).
Rodden was selected as the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year and delivered a season worthy of the hype. Starting in all 53 games, the junior infielder slashed .360/.463/.682, good for a 1.145 OPS that led the league. He banged out 17 doubles and 16 home runs, both tied for second-most in the conference, and paced the circuit with 61 RBI. Rodden is the first Shocker with 60 or more RBI in a season since Johnny Coy knocked in 63 runs in 2012.
Rodden’s 146 total bases were tied for the most in the conference, and he worked 37 walks while striking out just 26 times in 214 at-bats. He tied for the team lead with 24 multi-hit games and 17 multi-RBI games, including a career-high five runs batted in against Oklahoma on March 28. The native of Oktaha, Oklahoma produced a pair of two-homer games (UMass on 3/25, Kansas State on 4/18) and compiled Wichita State’s longest hitting streak of the season at 18 games. He also added 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts.
Rodden becomes the first Shocker to claim conference Player of the Year honors since Casey Gillaspie won the award in 2014 while Wichita State was still a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Grant Adler was named the conference’s Newcomer Pitcher of the Year in addition to his spot on the First Team All-Conference. The junior from nearby Derby, Kansas has been a rock at the back end of the Wichita State weekend rotation, leading the conference in ERA by more than half a run (2.41, next-closest is 2.95). Adler has allowed more than four runs in just one of his 13 starts, going 5-3 with six quality starts. He held the opposition to two or fewer earned runs 10 times this season and has turned in seven starts of at least 6.0 innings.
Adler’s finest moment came in the final game of the series against #7-ranked East Carolina, as he blanked the Pirates on just three hits while striking out five. He struck out a season-best 11 while allowing just one hit against Utah Tech on February 25 to earn conference Pitcher of the Week honors and whiffed eight over 6.0 strong innings in his most recent start against South Florida.
The right-hander has allowed 71 hits in 74.2 innings, ranking third in the conference with a 1.22 WHIP to go along with 72 strikeouts.
Fellow rotation-mate Clark Candiotti joined Adler on the First Team after going 7-4 with a 4.87 ERA in 14 starts, good for the second-most wins in the league. The junior ranks fifth in the conference with 82 strikeouts, highlighted by a run of five straight starts with seven or more punchouts. He fanned a season-best 11 batters in a win over Houston on April 7, and set a season best with 7.0 innings pitched against the Cougars on May 5 without allowing an earned run.
Candiotti possesses some of the nation’s best strikeout-to-walk numbers, allowing just 2.32 walks-per-nine innings. His 4.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio trails only Tolle and East Carolina’s Trey Yesavage in the conference. The righty walked one or less in half of his 14 starts.
After a breakout 2022 season, Ingram continued his development into one of the nation’s most dynamic players. He leads the conference with a .366 batting average and 19 doubles, tying for the top spot with 78 hits. The right-handed hitter has taken his game to another level since the start of conference play, hitting a ridiculous .416 in 23 AAC games with eight doubles and five home runs. He and Rodden are tied with 24 multi-hit games on the season, including a team-best three four-hit games.
In addition to the doubles, Ingram has launched nine home runs and driven in 41 runs despite batting out of the leadoff spot for much of the season. He grabbed national attention against Tulane by starting the game with a 501-foot home run as part of a two-homer day, then followed that up in the final game of the series with three doubles. Those games were part of a mind-boggling stretch in which Ingram went 17-for-28 (.607) with five doubles and four home runs.
Ingram has also turned himself into an excellent baserunner, swiping 16 bases in 19 tries after stealing seven in his first two years combined.
Tolle exploded onto the national scene as a sophomore, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with as a two-way player. On the mound, the 6’6 lefty has gone 9-2 with a 4.57 ERA, leading the conference in wins and becoming the first Shocker to win nine games in a season since Charlie Lowell in 2011. His 82.2 innings tops the conference, and his 95 strikeouts rank second. Tolle is 20th in the country with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.59:1, and 40th with 1.85 walks per nine innings. He is the only pitcher in the conference with multiple complete games, including a shutout of #7-ranked East Carolina that featured 10 strikeouts.
Offensively, Tolle is hitting .319 with 13 homers and 48 RBI, highlighted by an incredible game against Oakland on March 4 in which he went 5-for-5 with six RBI and struck out 10 as the starting pitcher. The left-handed slugger homered in all three games of last weekend’s series against South Florida, and left the yard against Big 12 opponents Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
Last week, Tolle was named one of 12 semifinalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award.
Miner snagged a spot on the Second Team with a brilliant season out of the Shocker bullpen, going 2-0 with two saves and a 2.03 ERA in 23 relief appearances, totaling 40.0 innings of work. He is holding opponents to a .156 batting average and has allowed just six extra-base hits. In the second half of the season the southpaw has become virtually untouchable, including a stretch of 11 outings in which he did not allow a run for 20.2 consecutive innings.
Miner has struck out 35 batters this season, establishing a new career high by fanning seven in his last appearance against UCF. He earned his first collegiate save with 3.1 hitless, scoreless innings against Oklahoma on March 14, then equaled that performance by blanking #7-ranked East Carolina for 3.1 innings on April 22. His best outing of the year came on the road at Kansas State, when he held the Wildcats without a hit over a season-long 4.1 innings to earn the win.
McDonald has keyed Wichita State’s second half surge with a red-hot offensive stretch. In the last 15 games, the junior centerfielder is hitting .386 (22-for-57) with eight doubles, raising his season batting average to .322. McDonald’s electrifying speed has wreaked havoc on the base paths all season to the tune of 20 stolen bases, becoming the first Shocker since Daniel Kihle in 2015 to swipe 20 bags in a season.
In addition to his offensive exploits, McDonald has been a solid defensive centerfielder who has committed just a single error all season. This past week against UCF he turned in one of the highlight-reel plays of the season with a home run-robbing catch as part of a Wichita State comeback victory.
Little has stepped in as the everyday third baseman for Wichita State and authored some of the season’s most memorable moments. The freshman delivered a game-tying single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning against Kansas on April 26 and a game-tying grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning against UCF on May 19. Later that day, he smacked a clutch two-run single in the ninth inning of Wichita State’s comeback victory that secured third place in the conference standings. Known for his hard-nosed play and irrepressible hustle, Little is hitting .253 with seven doubles, one triple, three home runs and 25 RBI. He has stolen 10 bases in 13 attempts.
Snead debuted as a key piece of the Wichita State bullpen puzzle in his first season with the Shockers, compiling a 3.10 ERA in 23 appearances. The right-hander’s overpowering fastball has repeatedly reached triple digits, helping Snead strike out 52 batters in 40.2 innings while holding opponents to a .227 batting average. He has three saves on the season, including a season-long 3.2 inning effort at Tulane on April 14 and 2.0 scoreless to nail down a 1-0 win over Kansas State on May 2.
The Shockers open the American Athletic Conference tournament on Tuesday night against Memphis. First pitch will take place 47 minutes after the completion of the 3:00 pm CT game between Houston and Tulane.