For Stuart High School center fielder David Martin, last year's loss to Falls Church, which kept his team from going to the district playoffs, remains an agonizing thought.

What was particularly hard for Martin to accept was that Jefferson, a team the Raiders defeated three times that season, ended up gaining Stuart's playoff spot. "It was kind of odd," he said. "And heartbreaking."

This season, Martin has made sure the Raiders reach next week's Potomac District playoffs. In fact, despite another loss to Falls Church, Stuart held a one-game lead in the league race going into the final week of play.

Although Martin went three for four, this latest 13-5 loss to Falls Church was devastating. "It was hard for us to accept because we were winning," said Martin, a senior. "For them to come over to our field and do that just let the air out of us."

But Martin said Coach Tom Arehart wasn't going let the Falls Church game turn things around for the Raiders. "He pointed out some good things and some bad things," Martin said. "He tries to point out our mistakes. The approach he took, though, is that it is behind us now."

For the right-handed hitting Martin, it would take more than a mere loss to upset his performance. At 6 feet and 155 pounds, he has seven home runs and a .458 batting average. And with 4.6 speed in the 40, once he gets on base, he's scoring runs.

At the beginning of the season, Arehart said that for the team to win, Martin, the leadoff hitter, was going to have to get on base frequently. "I told the team that David is our catalyst," Arehart said. "He could probably be hitting in the No. 3 or 4 spot, but my philosophy is that we have to get someone on base. And he's so quick and fast.

"He finds a way to get on. This season, he's gotten on five or six times on drag bunts."

Martin said, "I think we're all satisfied with the season we're having because in exhibition games we were losing everything," he said. "We lost our first game (to Marshall, 10-8), and everybody started to wonder."

In that first game, Martin had four hits in four at bats, including a double and homer. He has maintained an impressive pace, and so has Stuart.

Still, Martin feels the other teams in the district are now just starting to recognize the Raiders -- and him.

"We really haven't faced good pitching yet because the first time around they didn't take us seriously and threw their No. 2 pitchers," Martin said. But now, he added, "They more or less know how to pitch me in the big games. They don't try to pitch around me, but they know how to pitch me. I think people are going to see the light. They will play us a lot differently."

Martin said the key for the Raiders has been scoring in bunches, usually late in the game. Martin said the Raiders' hitting will have to carry the team to the playoffs.

"My role is to get things going by getting on base and then in scoring position," he said. "And it's like I get on, and they're hitting me around."

Batting behind Martin and driving him home are No. 3 hitter Kevin Sisk, No. 4 Rick Fisher and No. 5 Colin Ruh. Martin is particularly impressed with Sisk, a sophomore.

Although Martin, who led the Raiders in homers as a sophomore, can hit with power, he views himself more as a singles hitter. To improve his hitting, he spends a good deal of time in the weight room in the offseason.

"I'm surprised with my home runs," he said. "I go up there to hit the ball hard. I go up saying I want to hit a single. I get as much satisfaction out of hitting a single as I do a home run."

Martin often turns singles into more. Last year, he stole 19 bases and was hoping he could break 20 this season.