By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Minnesota State’s Harvey Martin is beginning the final season of what has already been an impressive college baseball career, and the right-handed pitcher says a guy named Peter Finn is responsible for a lot of it.
Martin grew up in a baseball family — his grandfather played, his uncle John Martin pitched in the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals, his father was a bullpen catcher for the Detroit Tigers.
There’s little doubt his love for the game was fostered at an early age but it wasn’t until high school, under the guidance of coach Finn, that he truly began to take the game seriously.
“Coach Finn wasn’t what you would call a great baseball mind, but his passion for the game was unparalleled,” Martin said. “He was a such a hard-worker and he demanded that everybody give their best all the time. He showed everybody on the team what it takes to compete at a high level.”
Whatever coach Finn did it must have worked. Martin was a football-basketball-baseball player at Farmington (Mich.) High School and, while he considered trying to play basketball at the small college level, he couldn’t pass up a Division I baseball offer from Central Michigan.
He pitched well in a relief role as a freshman in college but then suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery early in his sophomore year. He sat out all of 2010 rehabbing his arm, He returned in the spring of 2011 and posted good numbers, going 3-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 24 1/3 innings but realized his relief role at Central Michigan had been reduced.”
“The coach had to bring in people to fill my role while I was out,” he said. “I saw that I might not be able to contribute the way I wanted in 2012. I only had one year left to play and wanted to make the most of it.”
So, Martin decided to transfer to Minnesota State where he was quickly named a starter.
“I actually got my undergrad degree and was in grad school by the time (the 2012 season started). I think we all figured it would be one-and-done for me (at MSU).”
That one last spring turned out to be pretty good. He put together an All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and All-Central Region season, going 10-0 with a 2.95 ERA in 76 1/3 innings. He was one of the main reasons the Mavericks reached the semifinals of the NCAA Division II World Series and finished third in the nation with a 51-12 record.
A few weeks prior to the postseason, Martin and the Mavericks received good news. Head coach Matt Magers had been working with the MSU compliance office and they convinced the NCAA to grant Martin a redshirt season for his lost spring in 2010. That gave Martin one additional season, which started Saturday.
“Any time you have a pitcher of his caliber on your staff it can’t help but make you a better baseball team,” Magers said. “His best attribute may be his competitiveness. He’s just so determined to go out there and win.
“He’s not a strikeout pitcher, he’s more of a pitch-to-contact guy. He’s just very consistent. He gives you his best every time out.”
Martin is part of a veteran starting staff that returns 37 wins from a year ago. The other four starters are Bryce Bellin (10-2, 4.52 ERA), Jason Hoppe (8-1, 2.54 ERA), Tyler Ockuly (7-3, 2.31 ERA) and T.J. Larson (2-0, 2.65 ERA).
Mahlon Zimmerman (3 saves, 3.00 ERA) and Nick Sutherland (5-0, 3.13 ERA) return to anchor the bullpen. Transfers Chris Williams (Nebraska) and Tony Vocca (Utah) are also expected to contribute as spot starters, long relievers or closers.
The Mavericks’ rebuilt infield should see transfer Stetson Olson (Washington State) at first, Lucas Skjefte (.305 batting average, 16 steals) at second, Todd Standish (.217, 17 runs) at short and Connor McCallum (.320, 8 doubles) at third. Nolan Johnson (.343, .427 slugging percentage) returns as the No. 1 catcher.
Last year’s leading hitter Mike Eckhart (.365, 7 HRs, 35 RBI) is back in right field, Parker Sullivan (.100) takes over in center and left field will likely consist of a platoon made up of Scott Lindner (.184) and Cory Glieden (.206).