Since becoming teammates on a travel team at the age of eight, Jake Scudder and Cody Sedlock have been working to make each other better on the baseball diamond.
Now nearing the completion of their junior seasons at the collegiate level — Scudder as a first baseman at Kansas State and Sedlock as a starting pitcher at Illinois — their work has been recognized.
The only batter in the Big 12 to hit better than .400 in conference play, Scudder was named Tuesday as the Big 12 newcomer of the year prior to the start of the league tournament in Oklahoma City.
Hours later, Sedlock was recognized as the Big Ten pitcher of the year following a dominant season with the Fighting Illini.
“We’ve been pushing each other to get better at every level all the way up. I push him to get better. He pushes me to get better and it’s made a difference,’’ Scudder said. “It feels pretty good to be honored by the Big 12 and Big Ten pitcher of the year for him is huge. It’s great how things worked out.’’
Scudder and Sedlock competed for the Quad-City Hitmen travel team growing up and eventually took the field together with the Rock Island American Legion team.
They also competed against each other at the high school level, with Scudder playing for Rock Island and Sedlock for Rock Island Alleman before going their separate ways for college.
Scudder competed at Iowa Western Community College before arriving at Kansas State, while Sedlock moved into a starting role this season at Illinois after pitching primarily out of the Illini bullpen the first two years of his career.
Both thrived this season.
Scudder is hitting .336 for the season and became the first-ever Wildcat to win Big 12 newcomer of the year honors after batting .407 in league play and sharing the league lead in hits. He also ranked third in the Big 12 in slugging percentage and sixth in on-base percentage.
Named as a second-team all-conference choice, he finished the regular season with 21 multi-hit games and 13 multi-RBI games.
“I feel like I’ve made some good strides this year and I know I’ve learned a lot,’’ Scudder said. “I’ve made a few changes in my swing in working with the coaches here. That is helping me hit the ball in the air a bit. I’ve always put up good numbers, but now I’m starting to put the ball in the air when I need to and make it work for me.’’
Sedlock was one four players to receive unanimous first-team all-Big Ten recognition and was the only pitcher in the conference to finish in the top five statistically in innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA and opponent’s batting average in Big Ten play.
He finished the season with a 5-3 record and 2.49 ERA overall, striking out an Illinois single-season record 116 batters in 101.1 innings. In his last five starts, Sedlock averaged 8.9 innings with a 1.01 ERA against the last five Big Ten opponents he faced.