Josh Smith is still within the state lines.
But the 2014 Marysville High School graduate feels he is in an entirely different world.
Playing shortstop for Grand Valley State University has been a whirlwind experience for Smith, who has started in 15 of the 24 games he has played for the Lakers (24-13).
“I’ve just been jumping in at the spots they need me,” said Smith, who was a 3-sport athlete at Marysville High School. “Whatever role they need me to fill that’s what I will do. I don’t think about anything else other than winning for the other guys.
“You really spend every single day with your teammates. It’s a bond I never felt before. You go through the phase where you are the new guy after the seniors graduated and everyone has to get used to you. After a while you get so far into the season that you aren’t a new guy. You are just part of the team. It’s really a lot different than in high school.”
At Marysville, Smith was sensational in nearly everything he did. But that still wasn’t enough to prepare him to play against Division 2 pitchers in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I talk about it with the guys sometimes how the amount of sliders and change-ups and off-speed pitches you face is amazing,” Smith said. “Anyone good enough to play college ball can hit a fastball. The amount of change-ups I’ve seen has greatly increased.”
Although Smith is still getting acclimated to the college game, he has found a way to contribute to the Lakers success. He is hitting .250 with a .417 slugging percentage in 48 at bats and has six doubles.
Grand Valley is in first place in the GLIAC North Standings entering the final week of the conference regular season play. The conference tournament will begin May 7.
Despite the ups and downs of his freshman season, Smith has several fond memories, including his first hit.
“My first hit was in Florida and I was 0-for-3 at the time,” Smith recalled. “I hit the ball in the left center gap and I didn’t think about getting a hit I just started running. I tried to stretch a double to a triple and got thrown out at third. My coach told me don’t make the first out at third.
“There is a bit of irony right there. I got the hit but still kind of looked like an idiot.”
As the stretch run of the season gets underway, Smith will do his best to take a big step forward to help his team.
“Even when our bats weren’t working we still have found a way to win,” Smith said. “Some of the greatest things we have done so far is when we have found ways to win even when some things weren’t working for us that day.
“The driving force in me coming here was because I wanted to be a part of something where the culture was winning. Being here now is all about winning for the guy next to us. We play for each other. No one is looking for the spotlight. We are just looking to do our job when the time comes up.”
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @jhayes1136.