Letting his stick do the talking
Eagles’ freshman having banner year at the plate
The No. 4 hitter in a baseball team’s lineup is often referred to as the cleanup hitter, as it is his job to drive in runners.
In high school, the cleanup hitter is often a team’s best all-around batter. They can hit for average, hit for power or simply just put the ball in the field and force the defense to make a play.
This season in Purdy, Andrew Martinez has claimed the coveted No. 4 spot in the lineup. Through 12 games, the Eagles’ slugger is hitting .425 with 11 RBI and 8 runs scored.
Last week, the Eagles (6-6) won four games and Martinez went 8-for-14 at the plate (.571), driving in six runs and scoring six times. He also hit his first varsity home run.
Traditionally, the cleanup hitter spot is held by an upperclassman, and Martinez’s numbers fall in line with high school No. 4 hitters. However, he is just a freshman.
“In all my years at Purdy, Andrew is just the second No. 4 hole freshman I’ve had,” said Joshua Hughes, Eagles coach. “Mason Roller, in my first season, held that spot. It takes a special kid to hit there in the lineup. I don’t like to put freshmen there because of the pressure that comes with that responsibility, but Andrew earned that spot.”
Hughes admitted even he was surprised at what the freshman has accomplished.
“We lost our No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters from last season to graduation,” Hughes said. “I’d planned to just have our returning lettermen fill that spot. In fact, I didn’t even consider the fact a freshman could hit cleanup [this year]. To have Andrew not just fill that role, but excel, is a bonus to our whole team. It has allowed me to move my other guys around and spread our bats out in the lineup.”
Martinez is the anti-alpha baseball personality.
He does not yell, scream or use antics to draw people’s attention. In fact, he rarely talks at practice, let alone during the game. Instead, he has chosen to keep his head down and work on perfecting his craft, letting his play talk for him.
“I feel comfortable at the plate,” Martinez said. “When I play travel ball, they have left me in the four hole. My game plan is simple — just hit the ball and put it in play.”
Martinez said baseball is the only sport he knows how to play, or at least the only sport that he believes he is any good at.
“You have to just keep practicing and playing hard,” Martinez said. “That is how I plan to help this team. I like playing baseball.”
Hughes said what Martinez lacks in audible question answering, he more than compensates for on the field of play.
“Honestly, that was the most I have heard Andrew talk all season, no joke,” Hughes said. “He’s a smart kid. What makes him so dangerous is his ability to read a defense and hit to all parts of the field. He [adjusts his swing] without me having to say a word.”
Hughes said Martinez has a short, compact swing, and he does not have much wasted motion.
In 44 plate appearances this season, he has only struck out five times, which is tied for the lowest amount among the Eagle starters. He has only played one game where he did not get at least one hit.
“Andrew is able to keep the bat flat and level through the strike zone,” Hughes said. “He has great timing, and because he keeps the bat in the zone so long, he is a great contact hitter. He hits the ball hard. It’s not like he’s hitting bloop singles. They are legit hits.”
Hughes still expects big things from his freshman, but he also said that the object is for him and the team to keep having fun.
“Right now, the game is fun for Andrew,” Hughes said. “That’s how I want all my players to play. I just want them to go out, play loose and have fun.”