Martin takes own advice, comes up big in Hogs' Game 3 blowout

By: Matt Jones
Published: March 10, 2019 at 5:44 p.m. - Updated: March 10, 2019 at 6:07 p.m.
Arkansas infielders Trevor Ezell (4) and Casey Martin celebrate after Martin hit a home run during a game against Louisiana Tech on Sunday, March 10, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas infielders Trevor Ezell (4) and Casey Martin celebrate after Martin hit a home run during a game against Louisiana Tech on Sunday, March 10, 2019, in Fayetteville.

— When he came to the plate with a scoring opportunity in the second inning Sunday, Casey Martin nearly didn't take his advice from a day earlier.

Martin, who finished 1-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored in Arkansas' 11-0 victory Sunday, had lamented his approach in a critical situation during the Razorbacks' Saturday loss to Louisiana Tech. On Saturday, Martin flied out to shallow left field to strand the bases loaded in the seventh inning, preserving a 9-7 Tech lead.

Arkansas never scored again in a 12-7 loss.

"I was kind of pressing too much, trying to get a little too big with the swing at that moment instead of just taking a step back, relaxing, seeing a pitch instead of trying to pull it," Martin said afterward. "I got a little out front, a little anxious instead of waiting back. That's on me. Being a veteran hitter, I should know what kind of pitches I'm going to get in those type of situations.

"I hope these younger guys can learn from my mistake and be better."

When he came to the plate for the second time Sunday, Martin had runners at at first and second base, and two outs in the inning.

As had been the case through a 0-for-16 slump that bled into Saturday's game, Martin was out front of multiple off-speed pitches Sunday. That included a 1-2 pitch he struck out on in the first inning and a 3-2 changeup that he tipped foul to keep the second-inning at-bat alive.

On the next pitch, Louisiana Tech left hander Logan Bailey left an 88 mph fastball over the plate. Martin was waiting on the pitch and crushed it into the back row of the chair-back seats above the bullpen in left field.

"I was just out front trying to get a little big, like I was talking about yesterday," Martin said. "When you get two strikes with a pitcher like that, you've just got to deepen it up a little bit. That's what I did and I got a pitch out over the plate."

According to the TrackMan system in the ballpark, Martin hit the ball with a 103 mph exit velocity and it traveled 394 feet.

"I think he just got a really good pitch to hit," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I think the pitcher tried to bust him in and fool him because he had thrown him a couple of changeups in the previous two pitches....I can see what he was thinking, 'I've thrown him a couple of off speed and I'm going to beat him in.'

"It was about belt high and I just felt like Martin recognized it, and hit the ball about as hard as you can hit it."

Martin, the Razorbacks' leadoff batter, appeared to break out of his slump over the final two games against the Bulldogs, when he reached base in five of his final eight plate appearances. He had two extra-base hits - including an inside-the-park home run - Saturday and had 6 RBI combined in the final two games.

After it dipped to a low of .245 Saturday, Martin raised his batting average back to .267 by the end of the weekend. He is slugging .533 and has a .362 on-base percentage. He is tied for the team lead with three home runs.

Primarily because of his threat to steal a base, Martin forced Tech pitchers to throw more fastballs to the hitters behind him. Heston Kjerstad, who had a .250 batting average entering Saturday's game, was 6-for-10 in the final two games.

On Sunday, Kjerstad was 3-for-5 with an RBI - a seventh-inning double that scored Martin from second base, the first run in a six-run inning that put the game out of reach. Arkansas sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning.

"Mentally, I just think we did a better job," Van Horn said of his team's approach. "We saw a lot of pitches like we did the first ballgame and weren't swinging at stuff when it wasn't there. Today was a lot better of getting our pitch to hit and getting in a little better hitter counts. The result was good. We scored 11 runs and earned most of them."

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