Marten closes out a record-breaking Minnesota career

When pitcher Piper Marten is pitching, the atmosphere is serious and focused.

by Noah Seligman

Before every inning, the infielders on Minnesota’s softball team gather at the pitcher’s circle and huddle up to talk strategy.

A few jokes are thrown in to lighten the mood and relax the players.

But if senior pitcher Piper Marten is toeing the rubber, the atmosphere is less jovial and more focused.

“When she’s on the mound I let her do her thing,” junior shortstop Rachel Keeney said. “It’s her mound. Once she gets that ball in her hand she’s all business.”

She said teammates accuse Marten of having issues with her circle and being protective of her space.

But the Farmington, N.M., native said she doesn’t think that’s a fair assessment.

“I don’t mind people going into my circle,” Marten said. “I’m usually in my own thoughts. Very rarely will you see me laughing.”

While her intensity on the rubber might lead to some gentle chiding from her teammates, the Gophers can hardly argue with the results.

Marten came in as the No. 1 starter in her freshman season, and has cemented her spot at the top of the rotation.

She earned third-team All-Big Ten honors her first two seasons. Last year, she was named to the NFCA All-Mideast Region second team and earned first-team All-Big Ten accolades.

She holds the Minnesota records for innings pitched (897 2/3), games pitched (170), career wins (87), strikeouts (1,095) and shutouts (32). She also holds the top four spots for strikeouts in a single season.

Marten is one of three Big Ten pitchers to record 1,000 strikeouts in a career. She ranks 14th in Division I history in strikeouts.

“I always want to see that I’m improving,” she said. “One way I always (judge if) I’m improving is how my strikeouts rate from the year before.”

This season, Marten has a 20-11 record and a 0.89 ERA. She has allowed 39 runs, 25 of them earned. Opponents are hitting only .168 against her, and she has fanned 234 hitters while walking 48.

On Friday against Iowa, Marten threw her fifth career no-hitter. She also has two perfect games in her career.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story about the contributions Marten has made to the Gophers.

Co-coach Lisa Bernstein said her staff ace has matured in every aspect of the game. Bernstein said Marten started as a dominant rise ball pitcher and added new pitches every season.

She also said Marten’s relentless work in practice makes her a role model for the team.

“That burning desire is in Piper,” Bernstein said. “She’s internally driven, you can’t teach that.”

Keeney said Marten’s effort inspires the rest of the team to improve.

“She’s just a solid pitcher,” Keeney said. “She’s so focused and so intense.”

This season, Marten has played the role of teacher, by serving as a mentor for the two freshmen pitchers on staff – Mandy Valadez and Rene Konderik.

Marten said she has tried to instill in her younger teammates that hard work is the key and they need to learn from mistakes.

Cutting down on errors and pitching solid ballgames was something Marten focused on for this season.

“I wanted to be consistent,” she said. “I want to be able to shut down the (other) team.”

So far this season, it’s been tough to rattle her in the circle – teammates and opponents alike.