South Carolina fans understand the role that a power-hitting first baseman can have on a program.
Christian Walker certainly has helped give the Gamecocks’ lineup a boost in his two seasons on campus. If he leaves USC following his junior campaign in 2012, the program may have found a player capable of stepping into his big-hitting role.
Wade Hampton first baseman Kyle Martin, a USC signee from Simpsonville, doesn’t hit a bevy of home runs on the high school level, but Austin Lynch, his high school coach, believes he has significant potential as a power hitter.
“He takes what the pitchers give him,” Lynch said. “If they come after him, you can see him trying to become a power guy. If they are pitching around him a little bit, he’s not scared to go opposite field at all. He’s got more opposite-field hits this year than balls he’s pulled.
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“But he’s got the capability of becoming a power hitter for sure just based on his frame. He’s 6-1, 220. He puts on show in batting practice.”
Martin is hitting .563 this season with two home runs.
“I’m a line-drive and power guy, I guess,” said Martin, who committed to South Carolina before his junior season and signed in November. “Most of my home runs at usually line drives. Everything I hit is hard.”
Martin fills a number of roles at Wade Hampton. He is the team’s starting first baseman and also a starter in the rotation. However, he sometimes plays in the outfield, allowing Lynch to slide another senior into the lineup and put the best players on the field.
Martin doesn’t figure to see any playing time outside of the infield once he reaches USC, however. In fact, he’s likely to become solely a first baseman. The Gamecocks have left open the potential for him to do some pitching, but his velocity maxes out around 84 miles per hour, a number that won’t strike fear into any SEC lineups.
Lynch doesn’t believe Martin will have any problems developing into USC’s first baseman of the future, saying that he’s got rare defensive instincts and athleticism for a first baseman of his size and age.
“I think he’ll do all right,” Lynch said. “I kind of worry about him going there with all the depth that they’ve got from all the success that they’ve had, but I can see him stepping in and helping out early. From the ballplayers I’ve seen around here, he’s definitely one of the best in this area. And he’s as good of a kid off the field as he is on it.”
Martin is certainly ready to make a name for himself in Columbia.
“I’m sure everybody is excited to get there,” he said. “I honestly can’t wait. It’s pretty much a dream come true. I think I’ll fit in pretty good down there with Christian Walker, another power-hitting first baseman. I think I’ll fit in well, sliding in somewhere down there.”