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Mr. Justin Merendino

18422 Bluewater Cove
Humble, Tx 77346


Home Phone: 832-282-2997
Work Phone: --
Fax: --
Email: jmerendino@hotmail.com

Merendino stands tall

Cajuns’ 5-8 second baseman has been coming through in a big way lately.

Dan McDonald

Over the last 10 days, Justin Merendino’s been walking tall.

Tall in Merendino’s case is a relative term, since he’s generously listed as 5-foot-8 on the University of Louisiana’s baseball roster. But the numbers the Ragin’ Cajun second baseman has posted recently are large.

Over the last five games, Merendino has 11 hits in 21 at-bats. Four of the hits have been for extra bases, and the senior from Humble, Texas, had his third three-hit game of the season Wednesday in UL’s 14-5 victory over Sam Houston State.

It’s a far cry from mid-March … and even mid-April, when “Dino” was hitting .246. That’s more than 100 points below the .348 average he compiled in his junior season.

“I got into some bad habits,” Merendino said, “and when the hits weren’t coming I was pressing.”

The recent hot streak has bounced him back up to .286, and that mark could get even higher when he and his Cajun teammates head to hitting nirvana for this weekend’s Sun Belt Conference series at New Mexico State.

His recent success hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“We’ve done a lot of things this year without his bat,” said Cajun coach Tony Robichaux. “Now that we’re getting him on track, it’s huge for our lineup, and we’re going to need him for the stretch run.”

“When he’s doing what he’s doing right now,” said Cajun assistant coach John Szefc, “he’s one of the toughest outs in our lineup. He did so much for us last year, and he’s getting back there. But the one thing that he’s done for us all year is give us defense.”

One of those defensive plays was pivotal in the Cajuns’ series win over Florida International, when he turned what appeared to be a base hit into a line-drive double play in what turned out to be a 9-5 win over the Panthers in the middle game of the series.

But it was his hitting that turned heads last season, when he ranked second on the squad in batting average and led the team in runs scored (56), hits (73), doubles (21) and total bases (119).

Because of those numbers, his early-season struggles this year were even more pronounced. A one-for-19 streak in early March before conference play had him 15-of-61 (.246) after 20 games. The numbers were a little better before an 0-for-16 streak had him below .250 again prior to the recent hot streak.

“I worked with coach Szefc a lot in the cages,” Merendino said. “It was just a matter of taking care of some mechanical things. It happens, and when it does you just have to work your way out of it.”

Originally published May 6, 2005