Oklahoma State's Rob Walton has been named the 2016 Baseball American/ABCA Assistant Coach of the Year in college baseball, it was announced Tuesday.
Walton, who serves as the Cowboys' pitching coach, guided one of the nation's top pitching staffs in 2016 as OSU advanced to the College World Series for the first time since 1999.
Under Walton's tutelage, Thomas Hatch blossomed into the 2016 Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year and an All-American as the ace of a staff that racked up 10 shutouts, 574 strikeouts and 21 saves, all of which ranked as the second-highest totals in program history.
In the postseason, OSU's pitching staff carried it to Omaha. The Cowboys turned in a 1.58 ERA in their nine NCAA Tournament games, the lowest of any team in the tourney, as they allowed only 14 earned runs in 80 innings and also tossed a tournament-best three shutouts.
At the College World Series, where OSU finished third, the Cowboys opened play with consecutive 1-0 wins, marking the first time in history a team recorded back-to-back shutouts at the CWS.
Seven pitchers off OSU's 2016 staff were drafted by Major League Baseball, with Hatch's third-round selection leading the way.
Among other highlights on OSU's 2016 pitching staff:
- OSU led the Big 12 in opponent batting average (.240), strikeouts (574), complete games (5), shutouts (10) and saves (21). The Cowboys also ranked second in the league with a 3.21 ERA.
- The Cowboys ranked fourth in the NCAA with 10 shutouts.
- Hatch was named to five different All-America teams.
- Jensen Elliott garnered a pair of Freshman All-America honors.
- Hatch and Trey Cobb became the 13th and 14th pitchers to record 100 strikeouts in a season in OSU history.
- Hatch recorded four shutouts, the second most in a single season in program history, and also had consecutive scoreless innings streaks of 33 and 23 1/3 innings. He led the Big 12 in ERA, strikeouts, starts, complete games, shutouts and innings pitched.
- Tyler Buffett set the OSU single-season record with 37 appearances and ranked second in the Big 12 in wins, saves and opponent batting average.
Walton joined the OSU coaching staff in 2013, and the pitching staffs have flourished under his guidance. The Cowboys' success during his tenure includes 16 All-Big 12 pitchers, three first-team All-Americans, two Big 12 Pitcher of the Year honorees and a first-round MLB Draft pick.
Additionally, OSU's pitching staff led the Big 12 in ERA in conference-only games in 2014 and 2015, and the '15 group turned in the lowest ERA by a Cowboy pitching staff in over 40 years.
During Walton's four years on the OSU coaching staff, the Cowboys have made four NCAA Regional appearances, advanced to two Super Regionals and a College World Series and won a Big 12 championship.
OSU head coach Josh Holliday on Cowboys' pitching coach Rob Walton:
"Rob has the knowledge, he possesses the information, but what he does with the information is where he separates himself from others. His delivery, his personal experiences and ability to relate to the kids. What he does unique that so many can't is he learns to get the best out of every single player. He learned a lot of that in his early years as an instructor and teacher…
"He's developed a really keen sense of how to maximize every player and turn guys into successful, usable guys. Even if they don't have 90 mile per hour stuff, he finds ways to create outs. He has guys always believing that they can. He has a 'we can' attitude vs. a 'we can't' — he always looks for the way to get it done.
"Some people are just gifted teachers, and Rob's a gifted teacher. He's able to relate well and explain things to kids in a way that they can understand. Even though he possesses a tremendous amount of knowledge, he knows how to deliver it in a way that a 20-year-old kid can actually do something with it. And that's a true art in coaching."