The Orient chooses the male and female "Athlete of the Season" based on exemplary performance, leadership and commitment to their respective programs. The winners are selected by the editors of the Orient.
Christian Martin ’14
When Christian Martin '14 first threw off a mound for Bowdoin baseball just a few months ago, few onlookers would have expected him to have done as well as he has. His teammates were crushing his fastballs, and it seemed like nothing he threw surprised them. With a season's worth of experience, however, everything has changed.
The left-handed pitcher has a 3.00 ERA and is 5-1 over eight starts, with only 51 hits allowed in 54 innings.
He leads the NESCAC with 61 strikeouts, compared to just 16 walks, and is first in a number of Bowdoin pitching categories.
With his current strikeout total he sits in fourth on the school's all-time single-season list, and needs just 24 to break the record.
"My personal results so far this season have been good, but it isn't anything less than I had expected," he said. "As a pitcher you always have to have the mentality that you're the best player out there, and while I'm happy with my performance, it means nothing if the team isn't succeeding."
Martin started playing baseball in first grade, and played both baseball and tennis until high school. At that point, he had to choose between the two, and continued with baseball because he found it more interesting and was better at it.
There were no AAU teams near Chicago, where he went to school, but he did play on Legions teams in the summers and was part of the Chicago White Sox Fall Ball Academy league for three years. During his senior year, Martin captained his Lake Forest High School team.
"In the summer after my junior year, I was part of the Head First showcase in Richmond, Virginia, and got contacted by Coach Connolly after he saw me there," Martin said.
The transition to college ball was not without challenges for Martin.
"During the first month and a half of lifting and conditioning, I probably gained 15 pounds," he said, "but then I got mono and couldn't do anything for over two months. I'd been out since the beginning of November, losing the weight I had gained to actually get to about five pounds lower than my starting weight."
"Being out was hard because I was losing team bonding and strengthening time," he continued, "and it was tough getting thrown back into the middle of it all."
That being said, Martin went into spring training ready to prove to the team he was ready to work, and was told he would be the second pitcher in the rotation before the season started.
"I was really excited to have that opportunity to contribute," he said, "and just wanted to get innings. I didn't know how I stacked up against my teammates, and it was a very different experience coming in."
While Martin has thrown a fastball, changeup and knucklecurve since before high school, he quickly witnessed the difference between a high school and college hitter.
"My knucklecurve had always been my out pitch," he said. "In high school it was easy to throw mid-80s and just get people out. Here you really have to work the corners more and mix up your pitches."
Since Martin's early batting practice sessions, he has worked hard to make the transition from a thrower to a pitcher, working with his repertoire to strike out college batters. In addition, he has had to adjust to the fact that he no longer plays the field in games that other pitchers start.
"I also played outfield in high school, so it was interesting coming here and not taking reps out there," he said. "You can only do so much work here without hitting at all, and not being involved in every aspect of the game threw me off at the beginning of the season."
It seems safe to say Martin has made that adjustment, and may become the second consecutive NESCAC Rookie of the Year from Bowdoin.
Bowdoin (20-11, 8-3 in the NESCAC) has its last regular season games this weekend, with the NESCAC tournament starting the following week with a game at Amherst. Martin will be starting that game, and hopes to improve on his first game against the Lord Jeffs this April.
"Amherst was my only start in which I pitched poorly," he acknowledged, "and I'm really looking forward to a better game."
Runners up: Stephen Sullivan '11 (tennis) and Matt Ruane '11 (baseball).
Melissa DellaTorre ’14
First year Melissa DellaTore came into her own this season pitching for the softball team. She ended the season with a 10-4 record and 108 strikeouts. In over 100 innings pitched, her ERA was a mere 1.39.
DellaTorre, a Maine native, ran cross country, indoor track, and played softball at Scarborough High School. The school had a lot of pitchers, and the coach ran a pitching clinic which she attended as a child. In her freshman and junior years, the softball team won the Maine Class A State Championship.
At Bowdoin she has developed her pitching, and after the injury of a teammate she was thrust into a more prominent role on the team.
"I wasn't expecting to pitch as much as I did this year," said DellaTorre. "I think I got better as the season went on."
This new responsibility did not seem to faze DellaTorre.
"She has a mature confidence and a poise about her and that is a unique blend of characteristics," said head coach Ryan Sullivan. "Pleasantly surprised with her progress, I thought she would be a good pitcher; [I] didn't think a first year would come in and contribute like she did. She's focused and keeps her emotions in check, which is a great ability for a pitcher to let things go. To be able to do that in your first year is pretty impressive."
Her teammates were also appreciative of the support she brings during a game.
"Melissa's quiet yet poised attitude on the mound keeps everybody calm during the game whether we are winning by 10 runs or losing by 10 runs," said captain Kara Nilan '11. "This allows the other players to play at their best knowing that she will not show any sort of disappointment, but only encouragement to the players behind her."
DellaTorre tends to stay out of her own head during the game.
"Melissa's approach to the game is simple: she shows up to do her job and finds a way to deliver in any situation she faces," said senior captain Molly Nestor. "What makes Melissa such an excellent teammate is her unassuming grace—she carries herself with a quiet confidence and lets her performance on the mound speak for itself."
DellaTorre quickly found her place on the team after its training trip to Florida.
"Melissa was originally really quiet, but really came into her own as the season went on," said Nilan. "I remember I was paired with her during the first practice and I really got to know her. She really wanted to learn from me, but also was willing to push me to become a better player."
While her composure on the field was a great asset, she also had the skill to back it up.
"She's got a very good rise ball along with a good screwball and curveball," said Sullivan. "Her changeup is in progress, and that'll be her next step to maintain her success."
"She has proven that she is able to bare down with runners on base, coming through with big strikeouts when we needed them most," said Nestor. "Her 'cool' mound presence, her tenacity to attack batters, and her pinpoint control have all allowed her to perform under high pressure situations."
Her teammates often take great pride in watching her pitch.
"When you watch Melissa pitch you would have no idea she is as good as she is," said Nilan. "She takes complete control through her actions and not necessarily her voice. Everybody on the field has complete trust and confidence in her when she pitches."
"Perhaps the most memorable moment playing behind Melissa was when she struck out Jo Clair [the NESCAC's leader in home runs] to seal the 2-1 win over the perennial offensive power that is Tufts softball," said Nestor. "To secure two wins against Tufts that weekend was an amazing accomplishment—indeed, the highlight of this season."
Nonetheless, DellaTorre has continued to pitch her own game.
"Despite all her success on the field and the honors she has collected in her freshman season, Melissa continues to be the same quiet, down-to-earth, and supportive gal her teammates know and love," said Nestor. "Her accolades have not gone to her head in the slightest, and she is the first to praise her teammates for their efforts."
As for next season, DellaTorre is already ready to go.
"I'm already looking forward to next season," said Dellatorre. "We're losing two great captains, but I think we'll be a really strong team next year."
Runners up: Elsa Millett '12 (track) and Katie Stewart '11 (lacrosse)