Wright State’s Gabe Snyder is one homer and four RBIs away from the tying the single-season program records in those categories. But even if he falls short, his place among the Raider greats is already secure.
“Gabe Snyder will probably go down as the best player who’s ever played here, as far as being the most impactful over his career,” coach Jeff Mercer said. “His senior season is the most impactful season I’ve personally ever witnessed.”
Snyder, a fifth-year senior from Millersburg, Ohio, was named the Horizon League Player of the Year on Tuesday, while eight of his teammates were selected either first- or second-team all-conference.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound first-baseman is hitting .360 with 15 home runs and 70 RBIs. He has almost as many walks (21) as strikeouts (23) and is the all-time leader in homers (44) and RBIs (215).
“He’s really a true testament to the redshirting process and just staying the course,” said Mercer, who was named conference coach of the year after leading the Raiders to a 36-15 record and the regular-season title. “He came to work for five years, and, now, he’s one of the top players not in our league, not in our region, but in the entire country.”
Snyder isn’t the only Raider to benefit from a redshirt year. Third-year sophomore right-fielder Peyton Burdick, a first-team all-league pick, sat out last season, though not by design.
He suffered an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. But he returned this year to hit .358 with eight homers and 60 RBIs while playing outstanding defense.
“Losing Peyton last year was a tremendous blow,” said Mercer, whose team missed the NCAA tourney in 2017 after earning bids the previous two years. “Having him back this year has been a great boost for us — not just from his performance, but he’s such a great leader. His energy is so contagious.
“Offensively, he’s special. He and Gabe should both be All-Americans. They’re both All-American performers. He’s as talented an offensive player as I’ve ever coached.”
Senior second-baseman Matt Morrow, junior shortstop Chase Sloan and third-year sophomore pitcher Ryan Weiss joined Snyder and Burdick on the first team, while fifth-year senior reliever Derek Hendrixson, junior left fielder J.D. Orr, sophomore third baseman Seth Gray and redshirt freshman designated hitter Zane Harris made the second team.
The nine honorees are the second-most in program history behind the 10 who earned recognition in 2015.
Harris and outfielder Quincy Hamilton made the all-freshman team.
Orr has hit .315 with 32 steals in 36 tries, and he has a Joey Votto-like eye at the plate. He has 39 walks and 21 strikeouts in 181 official at-bats.
Morrow and Sloan give the Raiders an elite middle-infield tandem, while the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Weiss is another who made the most of his redshirt year. The two-time all-league pick is 9-2 with a 3.46 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 87.2 innings.
“He’s gained probably 50 pounds in the last three years. He’s an obsessive worker,” Mercer said. “Every calorie that he eats is counted. Every throw, every stretch, every weight lift — everything he does is calculated and well thought out and planned in advance. He treats his body like he’s an Olympic athlete. Consequently, he’s grown tremendously.
“People always ask, ‘How does a guy go from throwing 85 (mph) to 92-95 in two and a half years?’ It’s hard work. It’s not luck. You just out-work everybody.”
HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNEY: Wright State plays at 11 a.m. Thursday at Nischwitz Stadium against the winner of Wednesday’s game between Oakland and Youngstown State. The championship game is noon Saturday, and the winner will earn a berth in the NCAA tourney.
Tickets can be purchased at the gate and are $8 for adults and $5 for children (10 and under) and seniors. Wright State students are admitted free.