Martin’s championship debut homer makes statement, forces adjustments
SALEM, Va. -– When Katie Martin made her debut in the 2013 NCAA Division II Softball Championships, it was quite the how-do-you-do.
Her first-inning home run into left field against Kutztown was Grand Valley State’s first run of the tournament and was No. 20 of the season for the Lakers’ top slugger. And right then, there were seven other schools altering their strategy of how to deal with the senior designated player – if they hadn’t already done so.
Like many of the other home-run threats competing at the James I. Moyer Complex, intentional walks were in Martin’s future.
“Here, you’re introduced in front of all of the other girls at [pre-tournament] banquet, and everyone knows who you are – whether you want them to know or not,” Martin said. “So they know me, and they’re going to walk me, but that’s OK.”
Since that at-bat, Martin has been walked intentionally five times. If a Grand Valley State player is going to do damage at the plate, opposing coaches have decided that it will be someone else who does not have the same big-hitting reputation.
Grand Valley State, however, emerged as one of the four teams remaining in the tournament on Sunday, so that plan has not gone all that well for the other side.
While Kutztown got past the Lakers on Day 1, losers’ bracket foes Texas Woman’s and Molloy did not have the same fortune.
Martin was walked twice by TWU and went on to score twice. She also had a two-run double in that 8-4 win on Saturday. The four batters following her – Emily Jones, Miranda Clearly, Kayleigh Bertram and Maggie Kopas – combined for four hits and four RBIs – including a home run from Jones.
Against Molloy in Saturday night’s second elimination game, Martin again came up with a hit on her first at-bat. That was followed by two intentional walks. Once again, her teammates had Martin’s back with five hits, five RBIs and two home runs – one by Cleary and one by Kopas. Grand Valley won that game 5-2.
“It may be a 50-50 [success rate] when you walk Katie,” Lakers coach Doug Woods said. “But we have some players behind her who can hit, so we hope it happens less.”
For Martin, she admits it can get frustrating to not see a lot of pitches. This is, after all, the last weekend of her college career – one that will remembered for a long time at Grand Valley State.
Coming into the weekend, Martin was the Lakers all-time leader in six categories – batting average (she was hitting .438 coming into the tournament), hits (297), runs (184), doubles (70), total bases (547) and home runs (58). And if there is any consolation to seeing Ball 4 so many times this week, the five walks did move her to the top of that list at Grand Valley State as well. And the three RBIs she did hit put her atop that list as well.
“This season has been absolutely amazing,” she said. “… It’s just been a wonderful experience here.”
To reach Monday’s championship game, the Lakers will need to avenge their first-round loss to Kutztown twice on Sunday. Martin said her team felt much better about accomplishing that feat after getting a day off to work through that early defeat.
But she admits that there was some rough time in between. As Kutztown pulled away in the first game, Martin said she and her teammates started to get discouraged and even bickered with each other. But a day away from each other – most of the players spent at least part of Friday with their families – was good for everyone.
“We’re pumped!” she said. “We’re just going to go after them. They gave us our loss, but we’re a different team now. We’re back to our old selves again.”