It’s hard to believe Meghan Rud just finished her sophomore season at Mercer. Her career statistics sure don’t match up with her youth.
Rud ranks fourth in program history in stolen bases (52), ninth in triples (7), 10th in hits in a season (66) and she broke the program’s single season stolen bases record with 31 as a freshman.
The Bear’s trusty leadoff hitter might leave the Macon campus as an all-time great if she keeps it up, but she prefers not to speak on her statistics. Instead, the former South Forsyth star and FCN Girls Softball Player of the Year thinks her biggest leap will be this offseason as she transitions to an upperclassman. There’s plenty more to learn.
“I want to be more of a leader,” Rud said. “I’ve figured out over the past few years that sometimes you’ve got to speak up. You need people in the locker room who will be vocal and make an impact, mentally. Now that I’m going to be a junior I need to take it upon myself to develop as a leader on and off the field, hopefully pushing the underclassmen in the right direction. That’s the goal – you want the younger players to grow and mold together.”
Rud admits she wasn’t the most vocal player in her first two years with the Bears, but she let her play do the talking.
This past season she led the team in runs scored with 41, finished second in hits with 59 and stole 21 of 24 bases. She also accumulated 22 RBI as the team’s reliable leadoff hitter. But, with a regression in batting average after hitting .359 in her freshman season she’s used her free time since the season ended to focus on her skills at the plate.
She doesn’t mind the extra work, either. By now she’s championed the rigors of being a busy college athlete. The gauntlet includes waking up at 5:30 a.m., hitting the weights by 6 a.m., taking classes in the morning through the afternoon and then balancing practice and school work.
“Hopefully in time to get to bed at a decent hour,” Rud said. “It’s basically like having a full-time job. You have to be working hard at something almost every hour of every day, on the field and off of it. I think over the last two years my skills with managing my time, my work has increased.”
But there’s a reason Rud is also anxious for the upcoming fall and next year’s spring season. The Bears struggled in 2016, winning just 4 of 18 conference games in the Southern Conference for an overall record of 24-34.
Things changed in the postseason, when the bottom-seed Bears won their first three SoCon tournament games to advance to the semifinals. With only two seniors departing, Rud hopes the team can carry that momentum into next season.
“I think we did so well in the tournament because nobody expected us to,” Rud said. “It was kind of like, hey we can prove these people wrong. We can show them that we are a great team. Once we got on a roll and won the first game we realized we could actually compete, but more importantly come together.”
Overall, transitioning to college life hasn’t been too difficult for Rud.
“I don’t know if my lifestyle has changed too much,” Rud said. “I’ve always been so active and on the go, always very studious. I’ve always wanted to work hard because that shows character more than anything else really does. Sometimes I’ll miss my family a little bit, but it’s great down here. The great thing about college is everyone around you is either pushing you to get better, or someone who might need you to help them. It’s a really healthy environment to be in.”
Even through the sweat and late hours, Rud still made sure to keep up with her high school’s historic softball season. Last year the Lady War Eagles went 22-5 and 16-1 in region play, advancing to the GHSA Softball Championships in Columbus.
“I was following the whole thing on Twitter,” Rud said. “I know it’s been a while since we went that far, so it was exciting to see how much the program has grown. All of the freshmen I was with my senior year were doing big things.”
As far as her career goes, Rud wants to set a foundation at the collegiate level, much like she did at the high school level with South.
“Hopefully I can make an impact as that team leader and grow into a complete player,” Rud said. “But, I mean I’d love to win more too.”