By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky senior second baseman Alex Martens set a single-season RBI record at UK last year when she drove in 66 runs and had 13 home runs but the clear leaders of the 2019 team were shortstop Katie Reed, third baseman Abby Cheek and catcher Jenny Schapper.
Now Martens, a preseason all-SEC choice, knows she has to be more of a leader but says this journey is one that has been normal in her softball journey.
“When I was 9 years old, I played with the 10-year-old team and I am still friends with a lot of them. I always played with girls older than me no matter what,” Martens said. “When I was 12, I played with 13 year olds. When I was 13, I played with 14 year olds. When I was 15, I played with 18 and 19 year olds.
“I was always playing with people that were older than me and I always kind of worked in the shadows. I was that leader that led by example and that people kind of overlooked in that way until my senior year of high school when my closest friends from softball back home graduated and I went on to my senior year and played with girls I never had because they were my age.
“That was the first time I had a leadership role that was an actual leadership role. High school is totally different than college but in leadership it is not because you are still leading a group of girls. In college nobody expects anything freshman year. If you start you are already amazing.
“Sophomore year the coaches expect more. Junior year is where you get lost. You have the senior class who are my best friends and it is their last year and you are kind of enjoying the last moments with them. They are enjoying it. You are kind of hiding in that light but also working really hard and trying to lead the people behind you but you don’t have any leadership roles because you are not a captain. Now that they are gone, senior year it is you. You are the the person.”
So far, so good. Martens has four homers in 10 games and has already driven in 21 runs, including three in a 9-0 win at Middle Tennessee State Wednesday. Kentucky is off to an 8-2 start also.
“This year we all kind of see each other in an equal light and we have set the standard for the team this year that every person is held to the same standard whether you are freshman, sophomore, junior or senior,” Martens said. “That’s what makes this team a lot different than any other team because we are all leaders.”
Martens is also one of the team captains and was a bit overwhelmed that coaches, players or everyone else connected with the softball program who voted to pick the captains selected her before the season started.
“It’s really humbling knowing that people who voted for Katie and Jenny, and they were captains for three years and that’s unreal, saw the same things in me and Autumn (Humes) and that’s really special,” Martens said.
“That’s one of the most humbling things to wear this (C on the jersey). I didn’t even notice until Fan Day and I was doing my hair and noticed and said, ‘Oh my God.’ It’s just something special to lead a team of leaders.”
However, with the way her bat talks, it’s also easy to talk the talk of a leader like she has been.