Payton Tolle becomes first two-way player under Wedge


Sean Marty / The Sunflower

Freshman Payton Tolle prepares to throw a pitch during game two Fall World Series on Oct. 9 at Eck Stadium.

Growing up, freshman Payton Tolle had always pitched and hit, which hasn’t stopped since he arrived on Wichita State’s campus. Tolle brings a unique skillset and is the first ever two-way player that Eric Wedge has coached. 

“He’s a treat to be around and doesn’t take himself too seriously but he goes out and competes,” Wedge said. “For a young player, he knows himself very well, whether it being in the box or on the mound.”

Tolle primarily focused on hitting in high school but grew later on, allowing him to do both. Tolle was named First Team All-State by The Oklahoman and OBCA after a senior season when he hit .490 with nine home runs and also recorded a 0.25 ERA.

“I’ve always done both,” Tolle said. “Early freshman days of high school, I would lean towards hitting and then as I grew, I got with my coaches more and it turned out I could pitch too. I was able to work with both and I’m happy to do both here. It’s awesome.”

Tolle figures to be one of the pitchers to make the Shockers’ weekend rotation, following the losses of Preston Snavely and Liam Eddy, while also making an impact in the lineup. Wedge said he’ll be in communication with Tolle throughout the season to find the right balance.

“It’s going to be touch and feel. It’s not just the physical, it’s the mental as well,” Wedge said. “Just continue to communicate with him and you just watch and make sure we don’t give him too much.”

Two-way players have become more normal in the sport of baseball, with Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani winning MVP, after hitting and pitching.

Tolle said it can be difficult to balance both sides of the game but the coaching staff has been helpful during the process. Assistant coach Mike Sirianni has helped him make a schedule to focus on both pitching and hitting on individual days.

“I’ve got to focus on both, sometimes I get focused on one too much,” Tolle said. “One won’t be there that day but we’ve been trying to work on both. We’ve worked at trying to find a schedule with it.”

Freshman Payton Tolle takes a swing during game one of the Fall World Series on Oct. 9 at Eck Stadium. (Sean Marty / The Sunflower)

Tolle comes to WSU from Yukon, Oklahoma and said that WSU’s coaching staff was key in his decision to become a Shocker and the opportunity to become a two-way player.

“They were very personable people and I’ve connected with all of them since I’ve been here,” Tolle said. “They’re people, they don’t big league anybody. We’re a family.”

Tolle said he anticipates taking a back seat this year, with it being his first season in college baseball. Tolle is one of 24 newcomers to this year’s Shocker team, looking to build off last year’s third place finish in the American.

“I think just sitting back and being more of a role guy early on, let the older guys work and do their thing,” Tolle said. “I think I’ll set back and I’ll either swing it or sling it. Just being able to get outs whenever I’m pitching and not trying to do too much I think is the biggest thing I need to do.”

Tolle and his teammates are motivated by their goal of returning to the NCAA Tournament. The team feels that this season is pivotal in returning to a regional for the first time since 2013.

“Everybody knows this goal and being able to be a part of it, especially early on,” Tolle said. “Hopefully we make a regional and it’ll set the tone for the next two, three, four years, however long I’m here. It’ll set the tone for what the expectation is and what the goal is every year.”