Josh Merrigan may be putting together the best season by a freshman in Georgia State’s baseball history.
The Panthers’ starting center fielder ranks third in the nation among freshmen in batting average (.357), second in hits (74) and third in runs scored (46) as his team prepares to host Kennesaw State at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
No, it hasn’t been as easy as his stats have made it look.
“It’s been a series of adjustments throughout the entire season,” he said.
He’s adjusting well, first against outside fastballs, then inside fastballs and then 58-foot curveballs.
Merrigan has the most hits and runs scored of any freshmen in school history. With seven games remaining, he needs seven RBIs to tie that record. His batting average could drop 30 points, and he still would be tied for the best mark in school history.
“No way to predict any freshman is going to have the level of season that Josh is having,” GSU coach Greg Frady said. “High school to Division I is a big jump, but I’m not surprised he’s having success.”
Part of Frady’s recruiting pitch to Merrigan when he was at Walton High was that the Panthers could help him improve as a hitter, but that he had to be willing to do the work.
They inserted Merrigan in as an everyday player in the No. 9 slot and the work began.
Merrigan said his best moment was his first hit: a double off the left-field wall in which he picked a curveball out of the dirt.
“Getting that first one out of the way was unbelievable,” he said.
He finished the week 7-for-11 to earn his first Colonial Athletic Association rookie-of-the-week award.
He has won the award two other times and performed so well that Frady moved him to the top spot in the batting order and switched him to center field to take advantage of his speed.
Merrigan has worked hard for his success, taking extra batting practice and honing what the coaches tell him.
Frady said Merrigan also benefits from keeping an even keel.
“He has a good way about short-term memory and ability to move on and get to a good place where he has a chance at success,” Frady said.
Frady said if Merrigan continues to improve he could be a solid major league player because he has all five tools that scouts look for: arm strength (three outfield assists), foot speed (11 stolen bases this season), ability to field (.991 fielding percentage), ability to hit, ability to hit for power.
“Those tools aren’t major league (caliber) at the moment, but they are all in place,” Frady said. “The ceiling, he has a very high ceiling.”
GSU FRESHMAN RECORDS
Player (season), hits
1. Josh Merrigan (2013), 74
2. Bradley Logan (2007), 57
Jay Langston (2007), 57
4. Jason Glover (1993), 56
5. Mark Mortimer (1995), 55
Player (season), total
1. Josh Merrigan (2013), 46
2. Jay Langston (2007), 44
3. Bradley Logan (2007), 39
4. Jason Glover (1993), 36
t-5. Mark Mortimer (1995), 35
Chase Childers (2006), 35
Player (season), total
t-1. Jason Glover (1993) 41
Mark Mortimer (1995) 41
t-3. Jay Langston (2007) 38
Charlie Pelt (2004) 37
5. Bradley Logan (2007) 36
Josh Merrigan (2013) 34
Player (season), Avg.
1. Jean-Michel Rochon-Salvas (2005) .327
2. Mark Mortimer (1995) .325
3. Jason Glover (1993) .324
4. Chase Childers (2006) .321
Josh Merrigan (2013) .357