Martinez making the most of her chancesAll Nathalie Martinez wanted was a chance. Now that she’s got it, the Dickinson State senior softball player is trying to prove she deserves it.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
All Nathalie Martinez wanted was a chance.
Now that she’s got it, the Dickinson State senior softball player is trying to prove she deserves it.
Before this season, Martinez was known more for her connection to Kyrstin Gemar, Ashley Neufeld and Afton Williamson, the three DSU players who died in November 2009.
Martinez shared an apartment with Neufeld and didn’t go on the purported stargazing trip the night the three women drowned after driving into a stock pond northwest of Dickinson.
Martinez said she still thinks about her friends every day. But lately, she has discovered just how healing success on the diamond can be.
“We’ve given her the opportunities and she’s stepped up huge,” DSU coach Kristen Fleury said. “We’ve been looking for a leader on the field who’s been able to step up and get some big hits when we needed her to. She’s done that.”
Martinez is batting .368 (7 for 19) and hit her first career homer — a solo shot to left field — against Black Hills State on Tuesday. She has appeared in 13 games, which up until last weekend were mostly as a courtesy runner or as a second baseman that didn’t bat.
Against Valley City State on April 9, the Bakersfield, Calif., native came in and hit pinch-hit single. The next day, she got a chance to start and hit a pair of singles in the doubleheader.
In Game 2 against Black Hills State, Martinez went 2 for 2 and scored a run.
“There’s always been other players in front of me in the same position as me,” Martinez said. “When they get in, they get the chance to hit home runs, do what they’re supposed to do and succeed.
“When I got my shot in there, I was just happy that I got the chance to play and bat and that everything was just working for me. Hopefully everything continues to work.”
Martinez’s teammates want her hot streak to continue, too.
“They gave her a chance, she went with it and she rocked it,” DSU senior third baseman Jessica Huseby said.
Martinez has been a player starved for success.
Her first season, she redshirted and was so happy to be a part of the team, she drove with a handful of others to the NAIA national tournament in Decatur, Ala., where the Blue Hawks took third.
Last season, Martinez was pained by the death of her teammates, but said she’s using everything she learned from the experience as she moves forward.
“I lost my best friends and my roommate,” Martinez said. “What would they want me to do? Would they want me to just give up and go home and not try working hard and not be who I really am? Or, bounce back, get it, practice, act like nothing ever happened with a smile on my face. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.”
Using that confidence, Martinez has earned her way into the lineup.
“She kept battling, she kept fighting,” Fleury said. “She did everything she could to get that starting role.”
When Martinez hit her home run against Black Hills State, the exuberance out of the DSU dugout showed how special the hit was.
Huseby had a front-row view and smiled as she described the play.
“I was in the circle when she hit it and I just watched it,” Huseby said. “I was just screaming before I even got to the plate. I was like, ‘No way.’ Everyone was excited for her.”
Martinez will likely start at second base and bat in the lower end of the lineup when the Blue Hawks host Jamestown College at 1 p.m. today in the first of a scheduled four-game weekend series.
Martinez said she’s not going to let last week’s first real taste of success be her last.
“When I get the chance, I do what I have to do,” she said. “Nobody really has seen what kind of player I am. Now it’s all coming together. It’s all working for me.”