One year after volunteering for catching duty, even though he never had played the position, Jonathon Artigues is showing exactly why Tulane baseball coach Travis Jewett said he would take 100 players just like him.
Artigues, a sophomore second baseman from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is hitting .360 and has not committed an error for the new-look Green Wave (5-3), which gets ready for a weekend series against perennial power Cal State Fullerton (1-7) at Turchin Stadium.
First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Artigues will take Tulane's first at-bat soon afterward, having been promoted to lead-off hitter Sunday against Ole Miss and excelling in that role.
"I really feel comfortable there," he said. "It's worked out the past few games and I look forward to staying there."
Jewett certainly won't make a change if Artigues keeps producing at the same level. He led off Wednesday against Lamar with his first career home run, sending an outside fastball from left-handed pitcher Taylor Rich halfway up the net in right field. He scored again in the fifth, giving him six runs in the three games since his move to the top of the order.
"I just kind of watched his at-bats and saw that he was getting on base a lot," Jewett said. "He has been taking control of the strike zone and using the whole field to hit."
It is a stark contrast to last season, when Artigues batted .200, never scored and hardly would have been noticed if not for a devastating injury to starting catcher Jeremy Montalbano on the third weekend.
Jewett asked for volunteers in the dugout to complement Paul Gozzo, the lone remaining catcher on the roster. Artigues raised his hand.
"It was something the team needed, and it was something I felt I could do," he said. "I worked at it and ended up being all right. It's a tough position. There are so many things going on. The catcher really is the quarterback, knowing what's going on, where people are and what to do on every pitch."
Artigues started there a few times and was a late-inning replacement on several other occasions. He will never have to play catcher again, but the experience clearly helped him develop. In the fall, he led the team in batting average, and he beat out Alex Galy in a close competition at second base during preseason practice.
"It's just been fun to watch," Jewett said. "When you feel like you're a part of it, when you feel welcomed, when you feel wanted, it probably makes him feel good, which probably creates some relaxation, which allows him to be aggressive and not worry about making a mistake."
He has not made any in the field, teaming up with sophomore shortstop Sal Gozzo as an effective tandem. Artigues calls Gozzo the best shortstop in college baseball, and while Gozzo laughed off that label, the next error by a Tulane infielder will be the first.
Part of the credit belongs to Artigues.
"He's rangy," Jewett said. "He's an athletic kid. He can go side to side, he can come in on the ball and he can turn a double play. His work ethic, his investment and wanting to be good is starting to show up for him."
Having gone from emergency replacement to full-time starter at his natural position, Artigues has loved almost every moment at the beginning of the season.
"I like to compete," he said. "I'm trying to beat the pitcher every time I'm up there."
Jewett will stick with the weekend rotation he used at Ole Miss-Kaleb Roper (0-1, 2.79 ERA), Ross Massey (1-1, 4.50) and Keagan Gillies (0-1, 5.40). ... Cal State Fullerton, which reached the College World Series last year, has started horribly, getting swept at Stanford, losing midweek games to Nevada and UCLA and dropping two of three to Houston. History says that slide will end soon. The Titans have been to a regional for 26 consecutive years and finished above. 500 in all 43 years of Division I play.