Josh Merrigan’s college career was turbulent, but he wouldn’t change it for anything else.
Merrigan, whose three-run home run was key in the Spokane Indians’ 6-4, series-finale win over the Everett AquaSox on Sunday in Northwest League action at Avista Stadium, played at four different colleges before being selected in the 10th round by the Texas Rangers in the 2016 Major League Baseball draft.
“I don’t regret it at all because I’ve met so many amazing people and had so many opportunities when going through these four schools,” Merrigan said. “Whether it’s playing summer ball, or the teammates I’ve had, and the relationships I’ve made.”
He started his college career at Georgia State, where he was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. He hit .353 with 36 RBIs for the Panthers. Despite early-found success, he left GSU halfway through his sophomore season for Chipola College, a junior college in Marianna, Florida, in an attempt to get drafted, as junior college players can be drafted any time; there is no three-year wait.
After hitting .364 with 52 RBIs in 46 games for Chipola, Merrigan turned down fifth-to-seventh round draft options to honor a commitment to play for North Carolina.
Things weren’t as peachy for the Marrietta, Georgia, native at Chapel Hill as they were in his freshman and sophomore seasons. He played in only one game for the Tar Heels, striking out in his only at-bat. He said the most frustrating aspect of the situation is that he couldn’t sniff the field, despite that he felt he played well in the fall and in practice.
“There were some guys that had been there for three years that pretty much weren’t coming out of the lineup,” Merrigan said. “It was a bad situation.”
He capped off his college career at Gwinnett, an NAIA school less than an hour away from his hometown. Moving to a school where his parents could attend every home game and he could return home for a home-cooked meal was a much needed change of scenery after UNC.
“It was a breath of fresh air for me a little bit,” Merrigan said.
Now a pro, Merrigan struggled to start this season, posting a .210 batting average in his first 16 games for the Indians. He has turned it around lately, hitting .400 in his last three games, and that’s primarily due to improving on his swing mechanics.
“He had a couple little things mechanically that he does wrong and he’s worked really hard this year at (fixing) that,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “That’s tough to do … but he was willing to get after it right away and start making changes and I think it’s shown the last couple of games.”
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Merrigan sent a fastball to the opposite field for a home run – his first of the season – giving the Indians a 4-1 lead.
After walking with the bases loaded in a two-run the eighth, Merrigan finished 1 for 3 with four RBIs. He entered Sunday’s game with only two RBIs.
Everett scored its first run with an RBI double from Jose Leal in the second inning. Spokane’s Clayton Middleton tied it up with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth.
The AquaSox nearly came back in the ninth. Johmbeyker Morales laced a two-run double to center field and Leal lined an RBI single to right field to get within two.
Austin Grebeck singled to put men on the corners with one out. Johan Juan then struck out Dimas Ojeda and Donnie Walton grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
Tyler Phillips, an 18-year-old right-hander, pitched a career-high seven innings on only 70 pitches for the Indians, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
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