Toni Martin’s restructured batting stance boosts production at the plate

first_img Published on April 29, 2018 at 7:40 pm Contact David: ddschnei@syr.edu Facebook Twitter Google+ Toni Martin is tall. At 6-foot, she ranks behind only Faith Cain (6-foot-1) as the tallest player on Syracuse’s roster. It hasn’t always helped her at the plate. As a freshman, Martin’s long swing resulted in missing high-velocity pitches, and she finished the year with 14 hits in 55 at-bats. She needed to improve the timing of her swing, Syracuse head coach Mike Bosch said. In the months prior to this season, SU’s coaching staff helped Martin restructure her batting stance to make timing her swing easier.  “Since I’m really tall, I have these long limbs, it takes a lot for my body to get through the zone and my swing to be nice and short,” Martin said. “My swing would be really long, and I’d be late on the ball a lot.” Martin has used her revamped batting stance ever since, which has led to doubling her plate appearances and hits from last season. The sophomore’s improved timing has given Syracuse (28-19, 9-12 Atlantic Coast) another consistent hitting threat, something she rarely embodied during her freshman campaign. While Martin’s numbers at the plate still don’t pop out on a stat sheet, her newfound comfort at the plate and confidence in her swing has raised her ceiling significantly. “I immediately started hitting better,” Martin said. “I feel much better at the plate.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe stance, while effective, is unorthodox. Once Martin steps in the batter’s box and sets her feet, she positions her bat normally, over her right shoulder. As soon as the pitcher puts the ball in her glove and begins her windup, Martin fakes a bunt. A split second before the pitcher releases the ball, Martin repositions her bat over her shoulder before swinging or taking the pitch.  The stance forces Martin to shorten her swing, which has led to better results. This season, Martin boasts a .280 batting average along with five doubles, three triples and a home run. Last season, Martin recorded a .255 batting average and just three extra-base hits. The swing-shortening tactic, while not used by other SU players, is common in college softball to help hitters like Martin, Bosch said. “Look at her results. She’s increased her average since last year and had more success,” Bosch said. “She’s not alone, this is not a Syracuse-only thing. If you turn on ESPN, ESPNU, Big Ten or SEC Network, you’ll see a number of other teams using this approach.” To get comfortable using the stance by the start of the regular season, Martin worked in practice to perfect the execution of each step. Early in the season, there were a couple instances when Martin wasn’t prepared to swing because she didn’t pull the bat back quickly enough, she said. With experience, though, Martin’s technical mistakes have diminished and production has gone up. Kevin Camelo | Digital Design EditorMartin’s increase in production has given Bosch more freedom to move her around in SU’s batting order. When Sammy Fernandez’s injury kept her out against Niagara on April 18, Martin batted second and Alicia Hansen moved to the lead-off position. In all three games of the North Carolina State series the next weekend, Martin batted ninth.  Last season, Martin’s lack of production at the plate limited her playing time, and she started less than half of the Orange’s 50 games. Now, the sophomore is a regular starter and has become an expected contributor at the plate.  “I’ve tried it before in practice, it doesn’t work for me,” Hansen said about Martin’s stance. “It works for her, I’ve seen so much improvement from (Martin). Her changing her approach and stance has done a lot.”  Commentslast_img

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