A lot of seasoned I.V. residents have the luxury of taking extra time to wrap up their collegiate tenure at UCSB, having a final go-around of booze and blackouts as they cruise through a fifth and final year. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have 24-year-old Michael Martin of the UC Santa Barbara baseball team, a pitcher that has battled through multiple arm injuries the for the past two years after beginning his Gaucho career all the way back in 2003. The six-year senior made his long awaited return this season, pitching both as a starter and out of the bullpen.

“The boys like to call him the senior citizen of the team,” pitching coach Tom Myers said. “Mike’s had a few injuries that have been setbacks, but his work ethic and will to win has allowed him to rebound and be an invaluable member of our pitching staff.”

After completing his junior year as the anchor of the Santa Barbara rotation, throwing over 100 innings while striking out a team-leading 60 batters, Martin was all set to finish up his collegiate career in 2006 as one the Gaucho’s premier weekend starters. However, everything changed for the up-and-coming right-hander when he felt something wrong with his elbow following his first off-season outing.

“Being an arm slinger and throwing all those innings, I really should have rested my arm,” Martin said. “I rehabbed all summer but an MRI the trainer took before the season showed that I had a partial tear in my ulnar collateral ligament, which led to me to Tommy John surgery.”

After receiving the reconstructive surgery that has renewed countless major league careers, Martin did not see the results that he was hoping for. The Red Bluff, Calif.-native did not have his full range of pitching motion back, but after undergoing more than a year of physical therapy he was at last ready to rejoin the UCSB rotation.

In Martin’s first start against Westmont to kick off his 2007 comeback campaign, he pitched three solid innings to lock down the win, and it looked as if the wily right hander was back for good. Unfortunately for the veteran, his return was short-lived, as a sharp pain in his elbow during his following appearance would signal the need for arthroscopic surgery.

“My Dad and I had a lot of talks about what I planned to do with baseball, especially after the first surgery,” Martin said. “I knew there was a chance I might never make it back but he always kept up the confidence in me knowing everything would work out.”

Saying everything has worked out after all the contributions Martin has made to this year’s team would be an understatement. More than two years removed from his initial injury, he has been crucial to the Gauchos success as the team’s primary mid-week starter and as a late-inning reliever.

“Overcoming the mental block is the biggest thing,” Myers said. “He had some inconsistent outings in the beginning but has definitely found his physical stride.”

Martin has come on especially strong in the month of April, tossing seven shutout innings against nationally ranked Pepperdine in a dominating 14-0 win on the first of the month before limiting the Waves to one run in another seven inning start last Wednesday. Both masterful outings might have been outdone by one of his most recent bullpen appearances against rival Cal Poly, as he shut down the Mustangs in relief to give the Gauchos the win in the deciding series finale. Martin took the mound in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs, and induced a double play to exit the inning unscathed before sealing the deal in the ninth.

“That Pepperdine game was pretty huge, and made me realize I still have what it takes to get guys out,” Martin said. “When I came in as a freshman I didn’t have the greatest mechanics and didn’t care as much about location, but I’ve come to learn that less is more.”

Learning how to use his pitch with finesse has been Martin’s bread and butter all season long, pitching with location and mixing speeds to outsmart opposing hitters. In his high-pressure relief appearance versus the Mustangs, proper pitch selection and placement was instrumental in recording the final six outs in order.

“I evolved as a sinker ball pitcher over the years here with a two-seam fastball that I absolutely live on,” Martin said. “You have to be a student of the game, analyzing hitters and their swings, knowing where their weaknesses are.”

As the 30-16 UC Santa Barbara baseball team continues to work toward its best season in recent years, Martin is sure to receive more opportunities to prove he is ready for the next level as he and his teammates compete for the Big West crown.

“Hopefully I get into another big situation down the road where a scout notices me and gives me a chance,” Martin said. “I want to take baseball as far as I can.”