Sometimes, a freshman steps in and starts lining balls over the fence, racking up extra-base hits and RBIs and drawing attention to himself immediately upon entering the lineup.
Georgia Southern outfielder Arthur Owens is not one of those guys.
He’s quietly gone about his business as one of the most consistent hitters in the Eagles’ lineup, and he’s done it with patience, perseverance and the “little things.”
“I’ve never been a power guy, so I just kind of try to stick to driving the ball up the middle or oppo, and it’s worked for me,” said the freshman from Fayetteville. “I came to college with that mindset, and it’s been working pretty good.”
Keeping the balls inside the walls, Owens is batting .325 with 24 runs, 18 RBIs and even six doubles to go along with his zero home runs. He doesn’t mind choking up on the bat, fouling off a few, taking balls and generally annoying the opposing pitcher until he gets a pitch he likes.
“I know that I have to get on base,” Owens said, “so I wait for a pitch I can handle. A lot of times, I really don’t get that pitch so I try to stay patient and wait. I’ll do what I have to do when I get it.”
Getting on base is something he’s done well. With an on-base percentage of .428, he trails only seniors Kyle Blackburn (.494) and A.J. Wirnsberger (.429).
The defensive side of the ball took a while for Owens to get used to, but a move to right field helped change the scenery early in the season and since, Owens has played both sides and gotten his fielding percentage up to par with the rest of the team.
In fact, if you ask GSU coach Rodney Hennon, there isn’t much the freshman doesn’t do well.
“A lot of times young guys coming in have a hard time understanding what the team needs from him, but Arthur has a good approach,” Hennon said. “He’s a tough out, he has the ability to fight off some good pitches and I think he’s comfortable deep in the count and hitting with two strikes. He’s made good adjustments, he’s a good runner, he’s got a strong arm in the outfield and I think he’s gotten more comfortable out there the more he’s played. He can handle the bat, he can bunt and hit and run.”
To Owens, it all boils down to the basics.
“Just do the little things right,” he said. “The little things have lost us some tough games just because we aren’t a big power-hitting team like they’ve had over the years. We have to do everything right – bunting somebody over, making the right pitch, hitting the cutoff man – doing the little things and minimizing the mistakes.”
Owens came to Georgia Southern out of several other offers because he liked the atmosphere and the passion he saw out of the coaches.
“I had a few offers from some other schools,” he said, “but the campus and the stadium here really sold me. Coach Hennon, talking to him I could feel how passionate he is about Georgia Southern baseball. He sold me.”
It was the passion of Eagle baseball fans that took Owens by surprise.
“It was a little more than I expected,” he said. “You see the stadium, then you see the crowd forming and it just gets wild out here. I love it a lot.”
Owens and the Eagles face Samford (12-11, 11-1 Southern Conference) at home Friday at 7 p.m..
The Bulldogs are coming off a mid-week, 7-5 win over Alabama and have won 10 of their last 11.
The are tied for first in the conference standings with The Citadel.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.