The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

April 30, 2013

Jets better since much-missed Martin’s return

ENID, Okla. — The numbers tell how much of a lift shortstop Braden Martin has given the Northern Oklahoma College Enid Jets since his return to the lineup April 21.

With Martin in the lineup, the Jets are 4-1, including a sweep of an Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference series with Carl Albert. Without him, they are 10-34.

Martin, who was out with a fractured rib, is hitting .333 with four RBI and has solidified the Jets defense going into a four-game series that starts today with Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa.

“He’s made us a little better,’’ said Jets coach Raydon Leaton.

Martin, though, said he’s not the spark the struggling Jets have been looking for. He points out NOC Enid pitching allowed only four runs against Carl Albert.

“It makes me feel good,’’ he said, “but I credit that to our pitchers first. They threw the strikes that got me the ground balls. The guys ahead of me were the ones that got on to give me the opportunities that I had. I just try to help the team as much as I can.’’

Martin said his injury was a “freak deal.’’

“It was such a weird injury no one knew the timetable of recovery,’’ he said. “Nobody had seen it before. It just took time.’’

Watching was difficult for him, especially with the Jets losing.

“You feel a little hopeless,’’ Martin said. “There’s nothing you can do but sit there.’’

Martin was cleared to play for the recent series with defending national runner-up Western Oklahoma. He started on April 21. That wasn’t an easy task after not seeing live pitching for two-and-a-half months.

“That was a little difficult,’’ he said. “The first pitch I saw was 92 miles per hour on the outside corner ... but it was just good to get back. It’s good to see somebody’s best. Once I got some at-bats and took some ground balls, I got back in rhythm again.’’

Martin’s faith helped him get through the hard times.

“God has given me the ability to play baseball,’’ he said. “I try to glorify him as much as I can.’’

Leaton has tried to ease Martin back in the lineup. Doctors told him to be careful and to ease back in shape, especially throwing. Otherwise, he could risk tearing his rotator cuff.

“I don’t have a lot of time,’’ he said. “I make the plays that I can. I take it as easy as I can.’’

Martin, a Tulsa Union product, has strong roots in the area. His paternal grandparents live in Garber. His maternal grandparents live in Cleo Springs. He has cousins in Enid.

He played for the Enid Majors after his sophomore year at Union, which led him to sign with the Jets.

“I had a great time here,’’ Martin said. “I got a feel for the ballpark (David Allen Memorial Ballpark) and the town. This was the best place for me to play.’’

Martin’s adjustment to junior college baseball was made easier by playing at a power like Union.

“No matter where you come from, there’s going to be a jump to make,’’ he said. “So far, it hasn’t been too bad. You learn some things through experience.’’

His favorite player is New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, whom he says “plays the game the right way, plays hard and has a lot of integrity.’’

Martin took his last final exam on Tuesday. That gives him a full focus on baseball going into the Tonkawa series and the Region 2 championships next week.

“It’s going to be fun,’’ he said. “We want to finish strong.’’

He is looking forward to experiencing the unique Jets-Mavericks rivalry who are under the same NOC roof.

“I’ve heard about it a lot,’’ he said. “It’s a fun series. It’s an important series. We got our swagger back.’’

NOC Enid is 5-11 in the OCAC. NOC Tonkawa is 4-10 in conference and 16-24 overall. The Jets have a different attitude now after the Carl Albert sweep.

“We couldn’t find anything to click before,’’ Martin said, “but we were outstanding them in all three phases of the game last weekend. We hope we can continue that.’’

The series will be played four days. Games will be at Enid today (5 p.m.) and Friday (1 p.m.) and at Tonkawa Thursday (3 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m.)

 Playing four nine-inning games will prepare teams for the postseason tournament, Leaton said. All games will be nine innings.

The Jets will go with a rotation of Zach Postoak (4-5, 6.49 ERA), John Chidester (3-0, 4.05 ERA) and Austin Hannum (1-4, 6.25 ERA) the first three games. Leaton is undecided about his Game 4 starter.

“We want to win four games,’’ Leaton said. “We have been getting good pitching and defense and we’re getting a lot of timely hits. That will win a lot of games for you.’’�

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