Tad Martin has a knack for stealing bases.
The former Rock Hill Bearcat standout has been successful on 43 of 44 base-stealing attempts this season for USC Lancaster, nabbing his first 37 in a row. Martin leads junior college baseball in stolen bases, nine ahead of his closest pursuer, Kendall Ford of Chattahoochee Valley Community College, who has 34.
How has Martin’s thievery been so successful?
“I simply look at the pitcher’s cadence,” he explained earlier this week. “On first (base) I notice once he comes set and how long he sets. Most pitchers switch cadences but have a rhythm that they are not aware of. I figure that (rhythm) out and take advantage of it. When I’m in scoring position it’s mostly about anticipation.”
Martin began his college baseball career at College of Charleston but decided to transfer to Lancaster after a half-year in the Cougars’ program.
“I was given the option to redshirt or transfer, plus USC-L was closer to home,” said Martin, who will finish his college career at Francis Marion after committing to the Patriots in November.
Although Martin is making a name for himself on the baseball diamond swiping bases he was quick to point out that scoring runs is his favorite facet of the game. He also leads the team in walks (15) and being hit-by-pitches (12).
Lancaster coach Steve Williams joked that “you can’t steal first base,” making Martin’s ability to get on crucial to his base-stealing. He’s hitting .348 with an on-base percentage of .456, and a slugging percentage of .500 boosted by three homers, three triples, and five doubles.
Adding to Martin’s all-around versatility, the infielder has committed only seven errors in 43 contests.
“I’m proud of my defense,” Martin said. “I love everything about it. I used to throw tennis balls against the stairs (to practice) in our other house.”
Martin will try to pad his national stolen bases lead when USC Lancaster (27-16, 14-8 Region 10), concludes its regular season this weekend with a four-game series against Florence-Darlington Technical College at Lancaster High School’s Doomsday Corner.
Williams, who has mentored USC Lancaster’s baseball program since its inception in the fall of 2008, is thankful to have Martin in his stable.
“The process started here last year,” Williams said. “(Martin) has knowledge (of the game) and is savvy. He has matured as a base runner and it’s all about timing with him. He reads the pitcher and looks for patterns. He has the green light and knows when to run or not.”
And knowing when to run or not has enabled the Lancer speedster to avoid being caught on every stolen base attempt of his junior college career – except for one. After going 17-for-17 in his freshman year and 37-for-37 this season, the unimaginable happened on April 3 during an 8-2 win against USC Salkehatchie.
“I got caught stealing third, “Martin said. “I had stolen second on the first pitch and the very next pitch I thought I had a good jump to (get to) third. But I give it to the catcher honestly; it was a bang-bang play and he made a pretty good throw on an outside fast ball to a left-handed batter.”
Martin’s stepmother, Stacie, didn’t completely agree. She laughingly vowed to possess video evidence to the contrary. To be expected family has played a role in Martin’s success.
“My dad (Brian) has been my biggest influence,” said Martin. “We (family) were all at a ball field every weekend.”
Williams only had one beef with the Martins: “I’m mad at his parents because he (Tad) wasn’t twins.”
Martin’s base-stealing by the numbers
Stolen base attempts in two years at USC Lancaster
Successful stolen bases in two years with the Lancers
Games played this season
Games with a stolen base
Games with multiple swipes