FARMINGTON — For the past few seasons, Matt Martin has been a rock in the Piedra Vista lineup.

When the No. 1 Panthers needed a big hit against No. 16 Grants on Saturday, it was Martin who came through.

The senior ripped a two-run double that broke a 5-5 tie giving PV the lead for good as the Panthers battled back from a four-run deficit to advance to the 4A quarterfinals.

There are few people in the lineup that PV head coach Mike McGaha has more confidence in to come up with the big hit than Martin.

"The nice thing is in that No. 2 spot as a left-handed hitter, they know he has that pull power, so they pitch him away. So when we need to drag a bunt down the third-base line, he has a higher chance of being safe," McGaha said. "The other thing is he's a really, really good (opposite field) hitter. Guys feed him balls away and he just peppers that left-center field gap. He's always a very productive hitter."

Martin, who has signed to play with New Mexico Junior College next year, is also one of PV's top defensive players. He's committed just six errors this season and provides confidence to the pitching staff.

The shortstop is one of just four seniors on the PV roster and McGaha said Martin's experience has been invaluable to the Panthers all year.

"Him and Kody (Russell) are the heart and soul of what we do here," McGaha said. "The strength of our team starts with him and trickles from there. This season, he's irreplaceable. If we were to lose Matt Martin, we'd have no answers for that. He's the total package."

Martin's PV career will come to a close this week at the state tournament, and there is nothing more that he'd like than to walk off as a champion.

"It'd be awesome," Martin said about winning a title. "It's something we all want and we've all been working for. It's been a fun year and I'm enjoying it."

Last season, the Panthers saw their run of three-straight state championships come to an end with a loss in the finals to St. Pius X.

Martin said that loss motivated the team throughout the season and the team is determined to not let it happen again this year.

"We always have it in the back of our mind," Martin said. "We've been working hard this season. We just need to do what we do best and we'll grind through."

Joshua Perry covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and Follow him @jperrysuu on Twitter.