Kyrstin Gemar just wanted to play a role on the Dickinson State softball team. The junior never expected to emerge as one of the team's go-to hitters.
After the beginning the season in a pinch-hitter role, Gemar has batted her way into the team's designated player role -- softball's equivalent of a designated hitter -- and the clean-up hitter spot in the lineup.
She leads the Blue Hawks with a .516 batting average and a .622 on-base percentage as they enter the NAIA national tournament, which begins Thursday in Decatur, Ala.
"Good hitters are defined if they can get big hits in clutch situations and she has come up clutch every time we needed her," DSU coach Guy Fridley said.
In fact, both times DSU was backed against a wall this season during the Dakota Athletic Conference regular season, Gemar was the player to provide a boost.
Gemar's pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in catcher Amanda Perrott for the game-winning run in DSU's 9-8 win over Mayville State on March 28. Her two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning against Minot State on April 20 gave DSU a 4-3 victory.
Gemar attributes her improving batter's eye for her ability to get big hits in big situations.
"I'm just seeing the ball a whole lot better this year," Gemar said.
There's no doubt about that.
She has hit seven home runs, driven in 32 RBI and struck out just three times.
"She's going to put the ball in play and when she puts the ball in play, it's going to be hit hard," Fridley said. "You're either going to get a single, or get a big game-opening home run."
Gemar has been give DSU another weapon in an already loaded arsenal. Ranked third in the NAIA with a 36-3 record, DSU has hit 44 home runs this season and is outscoring its opponents 327-70.
"Everybody just keeps up with what they've been doing," Gemar said. "We've got great team chemistry, great defense, amazing hitters on this team one through nine. There's really nothing to it, we've just been hitting the ball."
With her sudden emergence, it's easy to forget that Gemar was a Blue Hawk last season.
The Grossmont, Calif., native arrived for the 2008 spring semester but sat out with a medical redshirt while she recovered from surgery that repaired a torn labrum in her left shoulder.
Blue Hawks junior outfielder Ashley Neufeld said Gemar's mid-semester arrival, coupled with her injury, didn't make her transition to DSU easy.
"Our team was already together. She came in hurt. She didn't really isolate herself but kind of was isolated just because of being a redshirt and missing games and things like that," Neufeld said. "This year, being a part of the team ... I think that's helped. She's just been able to shine. Her true skills and true abilities have come out. She's an amazing player."
Gemar said her year off also gave her some perspective, which she believes helped her do everything she's been able to this season.
"That year off kind of made me miss it a whole lot more," Gemar said. "I just wanted to come out here and just play and it worked out."