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FL MVP: Falcons’ Martin put together second straight banner season

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Ask Jason Martin about this season, and the South Lewis junior shrugs his shoulders and says, “It could have been better.’’

Even Falcons coach Chad Brown, who has seen Martin’s skills improve every season since coming up to the varsity as a freshman, insists, “Jason still has plenty of room to grow as a pitcher and a hitter.’’

If that is true, then the multi-talented Martin will take his game to an even higher level as he looks to a future that almost certainly includes college baseball.

This season, Martin put together a dream campaign in helping lead the Falcons to another Frontier League “C’’ Division title and a 17-3 record. For his outstanding work on the mound and at the plate, Martin is the Times 2013 Frontier League Most Valuable Player. He is also a first-team repeater on the All-North squad.

As the league’s premier pitcher, he went 8-1 with a minuscule 1.33 earned-run average in 58 innings. Martin struck out 91, walked just 15 and allowed only 41 hits.

At the plate, Martin batted a robust .544, going 44-for-80. He finished with six doubles, a triple, one home run and drove in 38 runs while striking out just four times.

When not pitching, Martin also played a solid shortstop for Brown’s club.

But Martin said he would trade all of those accomplishments for another sectional title. The South Lewis season was cut short in the Class C-1 quarterfinals when the second-seeded Falcons were upset by No. 7 Tully, which was also Martin’s only loss of the season.

With high hopes of repeating what South Lewis did the year before, capturing the Class C crown and making its first state playoff appearance, that sectional loss put a damper on what was otherwise a spectacular season for Martin and the Falcons.

“It’s going to stay with me and the team for a long time,’’ Martin said. “But baseball can be a funny game. One bad day and your season can be over. That’s going to stay with us awhile, and hopefully give us more motivation for next season.’’

With a core of players coming back, including Martin and All-North first-teamer Lucas Kelly, South Lewis should be in the league and sectional mix again in 2014. Martin should lead the way.

“Jason is a big, strong kid who is always willing to put in the extra work to keep improving,’’ Brown said. “He’s so coachable, and willing to listen to anything you tell him.’’

Brown said the 6-foot-2 right-hander was throwing in the mid-80s for most of this season. He also possesses a sharp-breaking curve ball and worked a change-up into his repertoire this season.

However, Martin said he needs to work on a fourth pitch, a slider, to build his game. “And my mechanics can always get a little tighter.’’

Brown said he can see Martin reaching perhaps the low-90s with his fastball “if he becomes a little more consistent with his delivery. He’s such an exceptional athlete that when he does get to college, I’m sure they’ll find ways to make him throw even harder.’’

Several colleges, including LeMoyne and St. John Fisher, have already scouted Martin and Brown said they liked what they saw, particularly as a pitcher with unlimited potential.

Although his hitting numbers were extraordinary, Martin said he was “a little disappointed’’ in his power production this season. Of his 44 hits, 36 were “just’’ singles.

Brown said the power will come if Martin “keeps hitting line drives the way he did this season. When Jason learns to stay back a little more and not get out in front of pitches, he will drive the ball a little farther because he has plenty of natural power. Staying balanced is the key for him.’’

At shortstop, Brown said sometimes Martin relies on his strong arm to make plays other kids can’t. “He’s got to be a little more consistent on the routine plays, but he certainly makes a big difference in our defense when he’s out there.’’

This summer, Martin will play in the Lowville Wood Bat League and is already playing for the Lowville Bulls, an adult team that plays on Sundays.

As for next season, Brown expects another banner season from Martin.

“It’s hard to believe, but I think he can do even better,’’ Brown said. “Jason is such a competitive kid, he’s never satisfied.’’

Martin smiles and answers Brown this way. “As a senior, you hope to have your biggest season. But I’ll just try to work as hard as I can to make that happen.’’

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