Adjusting from high school to college ball can be tough. The pitchers throw harder, athletes play more and the game moves at a faster pace. Nevertheless, JMU freshman infielder Josh Jones has made the transition look easy. Jones has started in 25 of the team’s 27 games this season and leads the team in batting average (.349), hits (30) and on-base percentage (.418).
JMU has had an up and down start to its season and currently sits at 15-12 (2-4 CAA). Jones has been one of the Dukes’ most consistent performers this season on a roster that has lacked consistency. His stellar play earned him CAA Rookie of the Week honors for March 4-10 – just three weeks into his collegiate career. In JMU’s recent series against Elon, the Dukes had a middling offensive showing, putting up just 10 runs in three games. Jones, However, had an excellent series, collecting six hits for a batting average of .500.
“Working hard and preparation from my coaches,” Jones said when asked about the reason for his early success. “I’ve put in a lot of time figuring out my swing, but working with them has definitely helped.”
Defense has also been a struggle for the Dukes this season, as they currently rank last in the CAA with a .955 team fielding percentage. Jones hasn’t been perfect this season — he has a .946 fielding percentage — but he’s held down the shortstop position. In 111 opportunities, Jones has only made six errors and no more than one in a single game. In a four-game stretch from March 18-24, Jones didn’t make an error in 24 chances
“We’ve got to clean up some things to clean up defensively,” head coach Marlin Ikenberry said. “But Josh has really been a staple in the middle infield, and he’s done a great job.”
Jones’ fast start has impressed his teammates, including senior infielder Bradley McKay. Although McKay has been battling a slump this year — he has a .167 batting average — he’s appreciated Jones’ ability to pick up the slack. McKay realizes as one of the veteran members of the club, the younger guys look up to him to show them the work that must be put in to be successful. Jones picked up on the the team’s mentality quickly, which has paid dividends.
“He just comes in and works really hard right away,” McKay said. “It’s obvious he knows a lot about the game of baseball, and by being himself and putting in the work, its led to some early success.”
Ikenberry knew he had something special when Jones came to play for the Dukes — it’s his cool and collected nature on the baseball field that’s impressed Ikenberry the most this season. Ikenberry believes the shortstops composure has led to his early success and will continue to benefit him down the stretch. Jones may not always blow people away with his athleticism, but his baseball intellect and clutch gene make him a force to be reckoned with.
“When the scene gets bigger, he rises to the occasion,” Ikenberry said. “It’s kind of fun to watch, he didn’t miss a beat when we played Tennessee or against High Point on opening day. He plays the game the right way, and his approach is unbelievable.”
JMU is only six games into CAA play and has 28 remaining, meaning there’s plenty of time for the Dukes to catch up in their conference. If the other JMU bats can keep up with Jones, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Contact Connor McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more baseball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.