Prep Softball: Martin making most of final year at Northgate
By DOUG GORMAN
When Northgate senior Andie Martin steps to the plate, it’s a good bet she is going to send the ball sailing over the fence for a home run.
It is something she has done time-and-time again this season en route to helping the Lady Vikings return to Columbus and the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA Elite 8 tournament.
A year ago as a junior, she helped Northgate win the Class AAAA state title.
One championship ring is great, but Martin is determined to win one more starting today as the Lady Vikings open play against Loganville at 4:15 p.m. at the South Commons Softball Complex.
Both teams are ranked in the gasports.com coaches’ poll.
Northgate is ranked second with a 29-8 record, while Loganville is ranked sixth with a 24-10 mark.
“To win it again just puts more strength on Northgate softball,” Martin said. “We do a lot, but some people don’t think softball is a sport. Winning would put more emphasis on that. We need some recognition.”
Northgate head coach Lisa Skelton is impressed by the way Martin has grown as a player during her four seasons with the Lady Vikings.
“Just her progression as a softball player has been great,” Skleton said. “She has matured both physically and mentally. She is a student of the game. I can count on her to be in the game both mentally and physically, and that is something you don’t always see with players. They just kind of settle in sometimes. She can step in and fill different leadership roles that I might not have other people be able to do.”
Martin might just be one of the most versatile players at the South Commons Softball Complex this weekend.
Although a first baseman by trade, Martin was convinced by her 16-and-under travel coach to don catcher’s gear. It’s a position she has mostly been recruited to play in college next year.
The Northgate senior began playing softball at the age of four and her Division I dreams are about to become a reality.
Martin has verbally committed to play at Western Kentucky after impressing Lady Hilltoppers coach Tyra Perry with her ability to play catcher.
“I have played first base since I was 14, but I made the switch to catcher at 16, and I have been taking my lessons because I am going to play catcher in college. I am more comfortable at first base right now, but it is a work in progress,” she said.
Martin first met Perry when she was 16 and that started the recruiting process.
“She started watching me once I started catching,” Martin said. “They were one of the schools I never wrote to or e-mailed. They started contacting me.”
Martin showed just how much she meant to the team the last time Northgate stepped on the field. Facing Effingham County in the third-and-deciding game at Sweet 16 tournament, belted three home runs.
Effingham County finally pitched around the Lady Vikings slugger in her last at bat, but by then it was too late as the Lady Vikings rolled to a 12-3 victory.
Despite her amazing day at the plate, Martin doesn’t always try to swing for fences.
“I learned a long time ago, if I went up there thinking home run, I would probably pop up or strikeout, so I just go up there relaxed. The third time, I honestly didn’t think they were going to pitch to me, but they did,” she said.
Even Skelton was puzzled by the Lady Rebels’ strategy to pitch to Martin three straight times.
“I know sometimes we tell our own pitchers not to pitch to a batter, but something just gets in their head and they miss the spot. I tell our girls let their mistake be our hit, and that is exactly what Andie does,” Skelton said.
Then again pitching around Martin isn’t always the best way for opponents to get outs anyway.
Northgate offense has been potent throughout the lineup all season, and it showed in the third-and-deciding game against the Lady Rebels as the Lady Vikings pounded out 15 hits en route to getting back to Columbus.
Katie Sachs had three hits and an RBI in the victory. Leadoff hitter Brenna Skalski finished with two hits, Ebonee Echols added a hit and an RBI, Jenna Pealor also had two hits and two RBIs.
Martin showed her leadership heading into the final game of with Effingham County off the field too.
After splitting the first two games with the Lady Rebels, Martin challenged her teammates not to let the tradition of getting back to the Elite 8 end by losing the third game.
They just have been listening. Northgate struck early and often to take control of a game that was never really close.
“I just told them if I didn’t think they could do it, I wouldn’t be trying as hard either,” Martin said. “I am not the one to ever yell at anyone. They just know me saying just a few words and being quiet is good.”
Those type of leadership intangibles are what Skelton is going to miss the most next year after Martin moves her game to the next level.
“What is going to be hard to replace is her presence,” Skelton said. “I have other players that can come up and hit home runs, but you can’t replace her demeanor. That is something we strive for is her even keel. Whatever happens, she never changes, and that is something you can’t coach.”
But before Martin puts the finishing touches on what has been an outstanding career, she has a little work to do and it starts by trying to get past Loganville, a program that also has a rich tradition.
Like Northgate, Loganville had to battle its way through a three-game series on its way back to Columbus.
Only the Lady Red Devils nearly faltered in the first-round after splitting with Woodland-Bartow in the first two games of the Class AAAAA sectionals.
Loganville regrouped and beat Woodland-Bartow 9-4 in the final game. The Lady Red Devils then swept Creekview to set up today’s game with the Lady Vikings.
Skelton sees many similarities between her team and Loganville.
“They are really comparable to us,” Skelton said. “They may not have has many long-ball hitters as us. We we also might have an advantage with our depth.”