HAMPDEN, Maine — Matt Martin’s short-term athletic game plan is well defined — trying to help the top-ranked Hampden Academy baseball team win a championship this spring.
That includes a major test Friday afternoon at South Paris, where the 8-1 Broncos will play second-ranked Oxford Hills, also 8-1, in a battle that may determine the top seed in Eastern Maine Class A come playoff time.
“That game is huge,” said Martin.
But the junior pitcher also clarified his long-term athletic game plan Thursday afternoon by making a verbal commitment to join the University of Maine baseball program on a partial athletic scholarship once he graduates from high school in 2014.
“I think [Maine] coach [Steve Trimper] knows I’m a hard worker,” said Martin, the son of Eric and Lisa Martin of Hampden. “I’ll do whatever I can do to be the best I can be.”
The righthander is 4-0 for Hampden so far this spring with 27 strikeouts and just seven earned runs allowed in 25 innings on the mound.
“The biggest thing about Matt is his size to go with his velocity,” said Hampden coach McLean Poulin of the 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound Martin. “He’s got great velocity already, and he’s got a great pitcher’s build.”
Martin’s fastball was clocked consistently between 84 and 86 miles per hour during his April 29 start at Brewer, where he struck out 10 batters and allowed two earned runs over six innings to help the Broncos to a 6-3 victory.
“I think they see him with that velocity at his size now and can see him in the high 80s by next year,” said Poulin.
Poulin added that Martin’s pitching arsenal this spring has been bolstered by an improved curveball.
“When you’re a high school pitcher with pretty good velocity a lot of times you can get by with just the fastball,” Poulin said. “But this year they’re expecting the fastball and he’s coming with the curveball for strikes, too, and the batters are going ‘Oh, oh,’ because they didn’t realize he had that pitch.”
Martin also was part of the Hampden-based team that represented Maine District 3 in the Senior League World Series last August, and he also pitched in front of the Maine coaching staff during a showcase event last summer.
“I felt like I had a pretty good summer with getting a chance to play in the World Series, and I thought if I could work on some of my stuff I’d really like to play Division I,” said Martin, who was a key reserve on the Broncos’ undefeated Class A state championship basketball team last winter and Hampden’s starting quarterback in football last fall.
Since talking to Trimper last summer Martin said he has worked to improve aspects of his pitching delivery, and with that work he already has been able to add a few miles per hour to his fastball.
He credits much of that improvement to work during the offseason and preseason with former Hampden Academy pitcher Pat Moran, now a fourth-year professional in the independent Canadian-American League.
“Pat had me in the weight room showing me what I needed to do,” said Martin. “He also worked with me to get the ball out in front when I pitch, to get on top of the ball.”
Martin is expected to sign a National Letter of Intent formalizing his commitment to Maine in the fall.