April 2023

Santa Cruz’ Top Pitcher Even Practices in the Dark

Something often have an epiphany in which they realize their passion. For Nevaeh Martinez, a 17-year-old junior at Soquel High, this moment occurred at a Stanford softball game when she was young and watched in awe at the speed and power of the pitchers.

At that moment she knew she would do whatever it took — work as hard as she must – to manifest herself onto the pitching mound. “I thought it was really cool watching the softball pitchers pitch and how fast their arms moved,” said Martinez. “Just how different it was than baseball.”

Years later, that same girl watching wide-eyed from the bleachers, has received the Player of the Year award for Santa Cruz City Schools as a sophomore and is the heart and soul of the Soquel high softball team. “That was really exciting to be able to get that award at such a young age,” she said. Martinez has one of the fastest arms in the league and boasts an incredible .670 batting average–more than six hits for every 10 at bats.

Since the age of 9, she has transcended her game to become one of the best softball players in Santa Cruz County, and has no plans to lower her intensity.

All of this success doesn’t happen overnight, as she spends countless hours fine tuning every aspect of her game — and she does so unconventionally. Rio Del Mar Elementary field often has dog walkers and the occasional hiker passing through, but that is where Martinez spends her time practicing her throwing, hitting and fielding, sometimes using the headlights of her father’s car to see the ball.

“When it’s bad weather or really dark I don’t have a facility to work out at,” she said. With lights in the hallways spilling over onto the field “it’s just enough light for me to work out every night.”

With the softball season just underway she is excited to take on a leadership role, and enjoys team bonding activities like bowling. In addition to her Soquel team, Martinez also plays travel softball for the Sorcerers out of Madera where she gets to compete and get even better throughout the entire year. “I do it for my personal growth,” she said. “It’s really fun and always has been.” Soquel has a much younger team than last year, and behind the arm of Martinez, hopes to compete for the SCCAL title.

While the majority of players can be found practicing in the batting cages or in the weight room, Martinez dedicates herself on the field – rain or shine – to work on facets of her game she believes will carry over the most to her individual success as well as that of the team. She loves winning and her favorite part about getting better is knowing that it will help lift up the rest of the team as well.

Martinez comes from a family of athletes, including her dad who used to play baseball himself and helped inspire her to get to where she is today.

Much of her work on the fields at Rio Del Mar stems from her admiration towards her family. “The people I look up to the most are my dad and my brother because their work ethic is so pure,” said Martinez. “They put their hearts into whatever they do, so I’ve always wanted to be like them.”

With two full years of high school competition remaining for Martinez, one thing is for certain – there are still many hours of the practice she loves waiting for her at Rio Del Mar Elementary School.

Quinn Southall is a Cabrillo College journalism student who has worked for the Watsonville Pajaronian and plans to work fishing this summer in Alaska.

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