Maryland softball pitcher Madison Martin struggled at the start of Big Ten play, allowing 37 runs in her first six conference appearances. But after working with pitching coach Lisa Norris to fix an over-rotation when throwing, the redshirt senior re-established her command.
She tossed four scoreless innings against Northwestern on April 9. And despite picking up two losses against Indiana last weekend, she allowed only four runs in her pair of appearances.
Martin has limited mistake pitches and improved her mental toughness, leading to her recent turnaround.
"It was really hard for her to find the zone and not leave the ball up," coach Julie Wright said. "Something just popped up there and they caught it pretty quickly, so that was good."
Amid a busy slate of conference games, it's been difficult to mend issues in practice. Maryland has already played 11 games in April, with nine of those coming on the road.
Still, Martin's training with Norris paid dividends against Indiana.
Using her command of the strike zone, Martin issued three walks and one extra base hit in 14 innings. Infielder Anna Kufta said Martin was consistent and adjusted to batters when she needed to, which is "just doing what she normally does every time she has a great game."
By re-establishing her dominance low in the zone, Martin forced groundball outs against the Hoosiers. On Friday, 11 of 22 at-bats resulted in groundouts. On Sunday, she forced 12 more groundouts.
"It's definitely mental toughness," Kufta said of Martin's recovered form. "Obviously, she works hard in the bullpen which is as much as you can ask for and it shows on the field."
The Edmond, Oklahoma, native threw three pitches of different speeds, keeping batters off balance. She allowed five hits Friday and nine hits Sunday. But in her second game of the weekend, she stranded 13 runners in a 2-1 defeat.
"Lately, she's been getting tougher [with runners on base], which is a key to having a really good outing," Wright said. "I think people are going to hit, you're going to make mistakes, it's hard. So, I just think she's done a really good job of keeping them — letting them get stranded."
As a Friday night starter, teams have extra time to study Martin's tendencies before facing her again later in the weekend. To combat that, she mixes up her pitch sequences. After Indiana showed its aggressiveness on first pitch strikes early on in Sunday's contest, Martin threw off the plate to get batters to chase balls later on.
"She just kept throwing her game, and they didn't adjust a ton," Wright said. "I feel like they really struggled overall and thought she threw two really great games."