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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Martin has been a real catch for the Waterford softball team

    Waterford catcher Melanie Martin attempts to catch a popped up bunt during the Lancers’ 4-0 win over Fitch in the first round of the CIAC Class L softball playoffs at Waterford High School on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    Waterford’s head coach Andy Walker cheers Melanie Martin (19) as she rounds third base after a home run during a girls softball game against Norwich Free Academy at the school’s field in Norwich on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. The Lancers won the game 10-7. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Waterford’s Melanie Martin celebrates with Brielle Kenney (7) after hitting a home run in the sixth inning of the Lancers’ 4-0 win over Fitch in the first round of the CIAC Class L softball playoffs at Waterford High School on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    Waterford — Growing up, Melanie Martin watched her mom, Heather, go back to college in her late 30s to become a nurse. The whole family attended Heather’s graduation from UConn.

    “It’s a hard thing to do,” Martin, the senior catcher for the Waterford High School softball team was saying one day last week after practice. “I think watching her being able to persevere through a lot of the challenges of nursing school and a lot that was going on in her life at the time ...

    “Come home and be able to care for her kids every single night without being stressed out about it. Come home and be like, ‘How was your day? What did you do at school?’ It was a good thing to watch growing up, It was a good role model to have. Growing up with my mom ... nothing’s out of reach.”

    Martin leads sixth-seeded Waterford into the Class L state tournament being with a second-round game Wednesday at home against either No. 11 Jonathan Law or No. 22 East Haven. The Lancers (15-6) earned a first-round bye.

    Martin will also pursue a dual career beginning next year at the University of Bridgeport, receiving a partial scholarship to catch for the softball team at the Division II level, as well as majoring in nursing.

    She has already explained where she got her passion for nursing. Also, her dad, Tom, is a fireman with the Jordan Volunteer Fire Company in Waterford, doubling his daughter’s call to service.

    A three-sport athlete at Waterford, although her field hockey and indoor track seasons were cut short this year due to a dislocated kneecap, Martin explains that her love for sports came from her boundless energy.

    “I think I am one of the most energetic people ever,” Martin said. “Even after one strikeout in the first inning, I will be on fire for the rest of the game. I don’t know how to come down from that. I, like, go and I have too much energy.

    “I have passion, too. I have a lot of passion for softball. It’s just a sport that I never got bored of playing. You’ve got to find that one part of it that makes it worth it; to me that’s your teammates and the people that you choose to play with.”

    Waterford coach Andy Walker calls Martin one of the best catchers in the state. Despite the Lancers playing an extraordinarily difficult regular-season schedule that included No. 1 Masuk and No. 3 Southington, Martin is batting .387 with a .493 on-base percentage, three doubles, three triples, two homers and 12 RBI.

    Defensively, she called every pitch for Eastern Connecticut Conference Player of the Year Brielle Kenney, Waterford’s pitcher, for whom she has caught since the two were 7.

    Walker said having Martin behind the plate is akin to having a coach on the field.

    “Just a leader on the field,” Walker said. “She takes charge of the defense, has a great relationship with the pitcher, knows when to fire her up, knows when to back off. The energy level that she brings is really unmatched. She’s really the heart and soul of our defense.

    “She’s an interesting kid because if I’m the opposing coach and have never seen her before, you think that she could be playing linebacker on the football team; she’s so tough and demonstrative and the energy level is just pouring out of every cell in her body. But if you get to know her, you can see there’s a very sensitive side to her as well. She’s very appreciative of things.”

    Martin, a middle defender in field hockey, in the midst of the action, calls catching more of a “secretive position.”

    “You do a lot of dirty work behind the plate that not a lot gets noticed,” she said. “A lot of it goes uncredited. You don’t get a lot of recognition. It’s very secret, calling pitches. Whether it’s calling a pitch or making sure your pitcher’s OK when she’s throwing wild or walking a couple batters, I think having a catcher is just as important as having a good pitcher.”

    Martin served mainly as the Lancers’ designated hitter as a sophomore, as they reached the 2022 Class L championship game, then took over the catching role upon the graduation of Emma Marelli, who is now excelling at Eastern Connecticut State.

    Martin was a first team ECC all-star and a member of The Day’s All-Area team last season and has also earned first team all-league honors in field hockey.

    Her senior year, prior to softball, was primarily spent rehabbing her knee from an injury she suffered during field hockey season, making her a regular at physical therapy sessions.

    She said her decision to commit to Bridgeport and head coach Dawn Sterns was due to an atmosphere there that felt like home. The Purple Knights finished 27-23 this season with a berth in the NCAA Division II tournament East Regional, the program’s fourth NCAA bid in the last six seasons.

    “As soon as I got to Bridgeport, every single one of those girls acted like my best friend,” Martin said. “They were like my family already. The coaches there are like the best coaching staff. They are a phenomenal family and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

    Speaking of family ... sometime in the next two weeks, Martin will end her career at Waterford, with the Lancers winning three of the last four ECC tournament titles during her tenure.

    Despite coming off a loss in this year’s ECC tournament, the team remained loose at a Saturday practice, listening to music, ending the session with a running drill.

    “I think it does sting not to have pursued our dream in the ECC tournament as we wanted to, but I would not have ever picked a different team to play with my senior year,” Martin said. “I absolutely love every single one of these girls on this team.

    “I think going into states we’re extremely confident. We play hard ... hard, hard, hard and we’re competitive. We’re all athletes, all of us play around two to three different sports a year. So I don’t put it past us ... I think we just have to go in there as a team and do one play, one out, one inning at a time.”


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