K-State's Martini rides long streak
Martini has reached base safely in 79 consectuive games
Somehow, some way, Nick Martini keeps getting on base.
Kansas State’s junior left fielder goes into this weekend’s series at Baylor having reached base in a nation-leading 79 consecutive games.
“I’d probably be lying if I told you it wasn’t something I thought about, just because it’s going on,” Martini said. “I try not to be selfish. I’ll do whatever it takes to get on base.”
The 2010 Big 12 player of the year leads the Wildcats with a .358 batting average and .482 on-base percentage.
Martini kept his streak alive through three losses at Texas last week. He was 2 for 12 in the series and went hitless the first two games. But he reached on an error and walk on Friday and was hit on the hand by a pitch in his second plate appearance Saturday.
“That one was kind of tough because it hurt,” Martini said.
Martini’s streak started in the final game of 2009. In 67 of the 79 games, he’s extended it with a hit.
“Obviously, the league we play in makes it even more exceptional because of some of the guys we’re seeing on weekends,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “The quality of pitching is some of the best in the country.”
The NCAA doesn’t track consecutive games on base. According to K-State baseball publicist Ryan Lackey’s research, Elon’s Cory Harrilchak owns the longest Division I streak for reaching base -- 86 games over the 2008-09 seasons.
Martini’s streak is by far the longest active one. Florida International’s Garrett Wittels, whose run at the longest hitting streak in NCAA history ended at 56 games in February, reached base in 75 consecutive games before last Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Florida Atlantic.
Other on-base streaks that ended last weekend were those by Kennesaw State’s Ronnie Freeman (49 games) and Georgia Southern’s Shawn Payne (47).
The left handed-batting Martini has just eight career home runs. But he’s a dangerous offensive player in this new era of toned-down bats.
He bats second in the order and has a discriminating eye, with a team-leading 15 walks against six strikeouts. In 59 games last season, the native of Crystal Lake, Ill., had 41 walks and 21 strikeouts.
“I’m going to be patient up there,” Martini said. “I’m not going to chase a pitcher’s pitch early in the count. I’m going to do everything I can to get on base and hit a hard line drive.
“I’m not going to be a guy who’s going to hit 10-15 home runs. I’m going to try to get on base for the team, hit the ball in the gaps and use my legs.”
Texas coach Augie Garrido, who has won a combined five national championships with Cal State-Fullerton and the Longhorns, said Martini could have been a starter on any of his title teams.
“He takes quality at-bats, which is what everybody is trying to do, but he does it more consistently than almost anyone,” Garrido said. “He hurts you by taking the walks he should take. He hurts you by the hits he gets, he hurts you by the runs he drives in. He hurts you by the productive outs he makes.”
Martini’s streak was in peril once this season. That was in the second game of the season-opening doubleheader against Pacific, when he was 0 for 4 as he stepped to the plate leading off the ninth. He hit an infield single.
To Martini, the closest call came in last year’s NCAA regional against Washington State. He was 0 for 4 when he faced All-Pac 10 left-hander Adam Conley in the ninth inning of an 8-6 loss. He drew a walk.
Martini’s offensive feats overshadow his defensive talents. He’s committed just three errors in 140 games in center and left field.
Martini went undrafted in high school, and said he probably would have gone to college even if he had been selected because he needed to add size to his 5-foot-11, 192-pound frame.
Martini is projected to be an early-round pick in this year’s draft -- more so because of his production than any of his physical traits.
“If you see him in a uniform, he doesn’t jump out at you as a prospect,” Garrido said. “My definitions of a prospect and a ballplayer are very different. One looks very good in a uniform. The other doesn’t look good in a uniform, and his uniform is torn up and tattered because of the way he plays. Martini is that kind of player.”