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October 7, 2013
Last season, Kyle Martin's play down the stretch and into the postseason was one of the team's biggest surprises. When LB Dantzler transitioned to designated hitter, it opened the door for Martin to play every day, and Martin was stellar in helping the Gamecocks to the third game of the NCAA Super Regionals in Chapel Hill, just one win from Omaha.
He was the NCAA Columbia Regional MVP, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with a home run and 12 RBI, and in the Gamecocks' elimination loss to North Carolina, he was 3-for-5 with two runs scored in a 6-5 loss. For the season, Martin batted .288, appearing in 34 games and starting 18 with two home runs and 10 RBI. In 2012 as a freshman, he hit .295 in 40 games with a homer and 12 RBI.
With Danztler now gone, the first base job belongs to Martin, and this fall he's picked up right where he left off in June - even dropping a few pounds and getting in better shape.
That he's been the team's best overall hitter through 12 scrimmages hasn't been a huge surprise.
That his arm has been among the most effective in the bullpen this fall, however, has. Not only is he second on the team in batting average, he also has the team's best ERA.
A pitcher in high school as well as a first baseman, the left-handed Martin had success on the mound, including being the winning pitcher for the Southeast in the Big League World Series in 2011, defeating Latin America.
In action this fall, Martin has shown a knack for inducing harmless groundouts not unlike another soft-tossing lefty who was a fielder-turned-pitcher - Michael Roth. While Martin is too good a player to remove from the lineup for the mound, he has pitched so well in the fall experiment with him on the hill that it's causing head coach Chad Holbrook to think hard about precisely what to do with the SEC Academic Honor Roll member from Greenville.
"We wouldn't be out there pitching him this late in the game if we weren't giving strong consideration to using him," Holbrook said. "Lefty, changes speeds, throws to both sides of the plate, those guys have made a living in this game a long time. Not just Kyle Martin. If you can throw strikes, change speeds, have a good breaking ball and change-up, he has some good savvy and poise about him, he can certainly help us out of the bullpen.
That being said, we may not have to pitch him too much. We'll see. (Vince) Fiori is throwing well. Josh Reagan is throwing well. John Parke threw the ball well today; I like what I saw from him. We have some left-handers out of the bullpen and have some options there. I don't know how we're going to use him"
Whether or not he earns a serious role on the mound, one thing is for sure - the man is dangerous with a bat in his hand.
"I love the way he's swinging the bat," Holbrook said. "The thing that is standing out for me about Kyle's fall is I know I have a guy I can put fourth or fifth in the lineup and the other team has to be very careful how they pitch to him.
"He's a threat anytime he's up there, and the good thing about it is we're going to have a threat in front of him and we're going to have a threat behind him. So Kyle should be able to get some pitches to hit, and in this park, it suits him perfectly.
"He is pitching very, very well, and I'm kind of tempering my enthusiasm for that. But the big thing that I'm excited about with Kyle is the way he's performed at first base and the way he's swung the bat all fall. He's no doubt, with two weekends, left, our player of the fall.
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