Martin wraps up dominant sophomore campaign with Player of the Year award

Courtesy photo / Doug Witte

Courtesy photo / Doug Witte

Brady Fredericksen

The dreaded sophomore slump has taken its toll on athletes all across the college sport’s landscape, but for Grand Valley State University sophomore Katie Martin, her sophomore season was nothing short of spectacular.

Martin wrapped up a record-breaking season for the Lakers with a pair of prestigious awards, the 2011 Daktronics Midwest Region Player of the Year award and the 2011 Ron Lenz Daktronics “National Player of the Year” award.

“It’s quite an honor and I’m really excited to have it, but I have to keep remembering I couldn’t do it without my team,” said Martin. “They get on base, and the people behind me can hit, so pitchers have to pitch to me.”

In a disappointing 2009-10 season that saw GVSU finish only 22-24 overall, Martin shined through as a power-hitting freshman, winning the GLIAC Freshman of the Year award.

This season, Martin built on her success as a freshman and turned in one of the greatest offensive seasons in GVSU softball history. Her 20 home runs were tops in the country – also good enough for second in GVSU single-season history – and her batting average (.478) and RBIs (65) were also the best in the GLIAC.

“I think her freshman year was pretty good – she was hampered by a foot injury – but basically played injury free this year,” said GVSU head coach Doug Woods. “I think she got some confidence last year, and she has a very good eye at the plate, which really helped her out this year. She became a lot more selective at what she swings at.”

Martin’s impact was also felt in the win-loss column. Her offensive improvement, combined with the infusion of All-GLIAC players around her, helped to lead GVSU back to the postseason.

“Hitting is contagious, so a little bit of inner-team competitiveness helps,” said freshman Miranda Cleary, the 2011 GLIAC Freshman of the Year. “It’s a little bit more motivation to get runs in, and when she gets on base I feel like its my job to move her around to score.”

Sometimes, athletes achieve individual success at an early age and they don’t work as hard to continue to improvement. That’s not the case for the modest Martin, who would much rather praise her teammates than praise herself, but work ethic was a big reason for her success this season.

“I knew last year I did decent, but there were so many things I could improve on,” said Martin, the 2010 GLIAC Freshman of the Year. “This year I focused on keeping my hitting form consistent, but there’s still things I can keep improving on during the summer.”

That improvement is something that powered Martin to the success she, and the team, saw this season. The unique aspect of the Daktronics awards are that they are voted on by the university’s sports information directors, not the individual coaches.

While the regional award came as a surprise, the national award proved to be the ultimate individual prize for Martin, who wasn’t voted GLIAC Player of the Year this season, despite her national and regional exploits.

“Being a sophomore, I would have never even dreamed that I would get this award,” said Martin. “It does bring more pressure for the years to come, but I know that improving on my weaknesses as a hitter and continuing to work hard can only make me more comfortable at the plate.”

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