Author Roger Angell wrote in The Summer Game, “Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.”
I don’t know if D.J. Artis has read Angell’s words, but I have no doubt the Liberty Flames’ outfielder understands what the legendary author meant. After all, the rising junior employs that concept every time he steps in the batter’s box. He does everything he can to get on base, to keep the line moving, so that his team can defeat its opponent, if not time.
Artis posted his second impressive collegiate campaign in as many tries this past spring. The center fielder led the nation with 62 walks, which enabled him to rank second among all Division I players with a .532 on-base percentage. His bases on balls total eclipsed his single-season program record of 52 that he established as a freshman. Artis also led the Big South Conference with a .359 batting average and 58 runs scored and finished second with 23 stolen bases in 26 attempts.
Yet to assume Artis is a slap hitter whose lone tools are speed and shrewdness is far from accurate. He accumulated 13 doubles, two triples and six home runs to rank third in the Big South with a .552 slugging percentage and ninth with 65 hits and 45 RBIs. He also paced the Flames with 19 multi-hit games, including nine three-hit outings, and had 11 contests with at least two RBIs. Artis manned the middle garden with aplomb, which led the Greensboro, North Carolina, product to earn conference Player of the Week honors three times, on March 20, April 24 and May 1.
It should not come as a surprise that Artis was named the Big South Player of the Year as well as a first team all-conference recipient. The outfielder became the seventh player in program annals to receive post-season All-America honors when he was named to the D1Baseball.com All-America second team and the All-America third teams by Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
With Artis among the returners, the Flames will challenge for a spot in the NCAA Tournament next May under second-year head coach Scott Jackson. The former North Carolina assistant guided Liberty to an overall record of 32-23 and a 16-8 mark in the Big South that included series victories in seven of the Flames’ eight conference matchups. Jackson’s club also defeated such national powers as North Carolina, Kentucky and St. John’s during the slate, with Artis serving as one of the team’s primary contributors.
Assuming Artis continues to get on base and “succeeds utterly” more often than not, the Flames have an outstanding chance to burn brightly in 2018.