TAMPA, Fla. – Jaden Martinez has been ready to jump right in and pitch her way to potential D1 softball stardom.
The freshman pitcher for the University of South Florida has not let a pre-season ankle injury affect a hot start to her college career.
She attributed her recovery process to the university’s health care team.
“It was very hard to get through,” said the Bulls athlete prior to a practice. “But I got through it … with my athletic trainer Michele (Latimer). She helped me so much.”
One of the biggest challenges as a result of her injury was not getting to develop a big part of her game.
“I couldn’t play all fall, and coach wanted me just focusing on pitching,” said Martinez, who loves to be at bat just as much as on the mound. “Hopefully next year I’ll get a shot at hitting.”
Head coach Ken Eriksen was clear on why he thought his young star should continue developing her pitching first, rather than playing both positions.
“To force that person to do something that she’s not 100 per cent capable of doing at this point without hurting another part of her game, it doesn’t make any sense,” said Eriksen, who doubles as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National softball team. “If you can understand the patience part, you got a good shot to stay in the game a long time.”
It seems he made a wise decision, as the left-handed pitcher is now one of the best pitchers on the team. With an ERA of 1.94 in 47 innings on the season so far, she is already helping the team a lot as a freshman.
“It feels good, it’s a little stressful” said Martinez about being relied upon so often as a first-year player. “But I kind of got it down now … I have a lot of my team as good backup.”
With a five-game club losing streak near the beginning of their season, the young pitcher attributes the cohesivity of the team for their turnaround, climbing back to a 19-15 record.
“Honestly, our team just needed to work together, and once we got together as a team, we won more games, and the game became easier for us.”
A win against Rhode Island on March 3 was all the runway she needed to string together her strong performances this season.
“It felt good,” said the athlete about picking up her first win on the scoresheet. “It definitely gave me confidence.”
Despite all her success, Martinez is still a rookie, but she has all the support of her more seasoned teammates.
“They help me a lot in practices, they tell me how they do things and I learn from them.”