The former Walton standout entered this weekend’s three-game series at Colonial Athletic Association foe UNC Wilmington third on the team with a .374 batting average and tops in runs scored (26), triples (2) and at-bats (91).
In a conference series against Old Dominion last weekend, Merrigan batted 4-for-11 with a home run and three RBIs. He also walked four times.
Merrigan’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed as the 6-foot-2, 170-pound outfielder was recently named the CAA’s rookie of the week for the second time this season. Entering this weekend’s series, Merrigan’s 26 runs scored led the CAA, and he was 7-for-7 on stolen bases.
“It’s an honor to just get one award,” Merrigan said, “so, to win it twice is pretty awesome.”
Merrigan helped Georgia State to a 15-7 start to the season, with a 5-1 mark in the CAA. He’s seen his stock rise, and he’s now batting third in the lineup, having started 21 of 22 games.
“I was hitting last in the lineup early in the season, but I’ve been batting third for a while,” Merrigan said. “I did well in the fall, which I think really helped me get noticed. The coaches helped me a lot as I was struggling early, but I started hitting well as spring came around.
“Every day, I’m just trying to build on things and do what my coaches ask me to do. They trust me to go out there and do it. I’m excited that they’re giving me this opportunity.”
Georgia State coach Greg Frady saw enough potential in Merrigan in high school to offer him a scholarship.
“During the recruiting process, I felt like he would be able to contribute for us,” Frady said. “To his credit, he’s off to a good start. He works hard. He’s coachable and highly competitive. He’s what you want in a player.”
Despite Merrigan’s success, the transition from high school to college baseball was difficult, mostly in making the necessary adjustments from game to game.
“It’s been a tough transition,” he said. “In high school, there are no scouting reports to study. But in college, everybody gets updates on people and you have to study those reports to get an edge. I’ve had to adjust to that and to my approach.”
Merrigan’s ability to make those adjustments is one of the reasons why Frady is confident in his young player.
“I felt like he could make an impact as a freshman,” Frady said. “He’s worked hard, and he’s made the adjustments to how people pitch to him.
“Early on, we had him in the bottom of the lineup to build his confidence and to ease him into things. Once he got going and we saw how well he was doing, it was easy to move him to third.”
Merrigan acknowledged that his strengths are his hitting and baserunning, and he needs to improve on his throwing accuracy from outfield.
As of March 18, he ranked among the top 20 nationally in runs per game, runs scored and hits. As a team, Georgia State was first in runs scored (193), hits (253) and on-base percentage (.447), and second in batting average (.349) and scoring (9.7 runs per game).
The Panthers’ gaudy numbers would normally be attributed to an experienced team, but Merrigan is one of five freshmen Frady has used in the lineup this season.
“The fact that we’ve had success with these young guys helps us moving forward,” Frady said, “and Josh’s two rookie of the week awards is a testament to how well he’s doing. He’s clearly a guy teams need to think about.”