Andy Merchant is in his third season as the head baseball coach at Olivet College in 2018-19. The Comets have improved their overall record, MIAA record, team batting average and team earned run average in each of Merchant’s first two seasons. The 2017 team set the single-season school record for triples and had more extra base hits than any Olivet team since new bat rules went into place following the 2010 season. The 14 home runs in 2018 were the most in the BBCOR bat era. The 2018 pitching staff struck out more hitters (188) than any team since 2005.
In Merchant’s two seasons at Olivet, the Comets have had posted many all-time top ten individual season marks. In 2017, Aaron Gillespie posted the seventh-best single-season batting average at .411. He also ranked second in hits (60), tied for first in doubles (14), and fifth in total bases (86). Also in 2017, Austin Cleaver tied for tenth with runs scored (33), seventh in hits (53), first in triples (five), and ninth in total bases (77). In 2018, Junior Gomez finished ninth on the list with five home runs and Jake Robinson tied for tenth with 24 walks. Gillespie tied for sixth with a 13-game hitting streak.
The 2018 Comets’ team improved greatly defensively with a .952 fielding percentage, committing only 66 errors on defense after finishing with 99 and 101 the previous two seasons. As a team, the 29 double plays turned tied for the most in the MIAA and catcher Jake Robinson led the MIAA with 16 runners caught stealing. Shortstop Riley Bennett led the MIAA and set a school record with 133 assists in 2018. On the mound, Joe Crosby set an all-time Comets record with 22 pitching appearances in a season in 2018.
Merchant came to Olivet from Lansing Community College (LCC), where he served as head baseball coach from fall of 2013 to summer of 2016. In his three seasons at LCC, Merchant compiled a 69-69 overall record. The Stars set many records in this time, highlighted by a school-record 30 win season in 2016 in his final year. The 2016 team earned the school’s first-ever postseason appearance in the NJCAA Region XII Tournament in Battle Creek.
While at Lansing, the single-season school records set included wins (30), runs scored (375), hits (467), doubles (104), home runs (23), batting average (.321), slugging percentage (.457) and strikeouts thrown (329) all in 2016. The 2015 team set single-season school records for triples (19) and on-base percentage (.417). Merchant’s first season, the 2014 squad set the school record with 82 stolen bases.
The 2016 team ranked 35th nationally in batting average and 38th in slugging percentage. Two starters on the team finished with an on-base percentage over .500. The pitching staff on the 2016 team also finished 30th nationally with 8.49 strikeouts per nine innings. In 2015, LCC finished 26th nationally with a .424 on-base percentage.
Overall, Merchant coached 14 All-Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) performers, including Austin Lansky, who was an All-District and All-Region performer in 2016. The 2014 team featured Bailey Magsig, who finished sixth nationally with a 1.17 ERA. In 2015, outfielder Jake Bozzo ranked 18th nationally with a .522 on-base percentage. Merchant’s teams produced 27 players that continued at four-year institutions, including 3 to NCAA Division I programs, 11 to Division II, and 2 to Division III.
In 2016, LCC became a MCCAA All-Academic team for the first time in the program’s history, with a 3.025 team GPA. The team also had a program-record six Academic All-MCCAA selections. With a focus on competing at a national level, LCC played 16 of its 50 games against schools ranked in the top 20 nationally and played nine games versus schools ranked in the top six nationally.
Merchant earned a Bachelor of Art’s degree in Business Administration from Alma College in 2000. While there, he played four years of baseball for the Scots. In 1999, Alma won the MIAA championship under former Boston Red Sox pitcher John Leister. A right-handed pitcher, Merchant led the Scots in appearances during the 1999 championship season.
Prior to Alma, Merchant attended Holt High School where he set the school record for strikeouts by a pitcher, a record that stood for 15 years. His playing career also included stints with East Lansing Post 205, Gratiot County League and Lansing Men’s City League. Merchant founded and coached the Kitsmiller Baseball Club, who competed successfully in the Lansing Men’s League for three seasons.
Merchant comes from a baseball family. Twin brother Adam won back-to-back NJCAA National Championships as a pitcher at Grand Rapids Community College before finishing his career at Wayne State University. Cousin Kevin Rogers pitched for the San Francisco Giants for three years, including appearing in 64 games in the 1993 season on a team that won 103 games.
Merchant’s wife Megan is in her seventh season as head women’s volleyball coach for the Comets. Andy and Megan live in Charlotte, with their children Eli and Mya.