Drew DeMers spent a large chunk of his freshman baseball season at Dakota Wesleyan University observing from the dugout.
He was a standout for Winner/Colome during his high school years-earning Class B second-team all-state honors and winning a club state championship-but last season brought just 33 at-bats. So he studied the game.
Through 27 games, DeMers appears to be a scholar at the plate. Not only as an everyday outfielder, but his .442 average leads the Great Plains Athletic Conference, while also driving in 16 runs and stealing nine bases without being thrown out.
"That first year was good for me, even if I wasn't in the game, I was really paying attention because there was a lot to learn just by watching," DeMers said. "... I think I took advantage of that time I wasn't playing to learn the game and I think that's helped me this year to know what to look for in certain situations."
The Winner native began to see more time toward the end of last season, with the Tigers taking advantage of his ability to get on base by inserting him at the leadoff spot. Then during the offseason, DeMers played amateur baseball for Winner/Colome with DWU and prep teammate Reed Harter.
By the time fall practice rolled around, DeMers began to feel more comfortable at the plate during scrimmages and intersquad games, leading to an inkling that he would have a strong sophomore campaign this spring.
"He can get on base in so many ways," DWU head coach John Greicar said. "He can work a count, he doesn't strikeout much, he puts the ball in play, he can pull the ball, he can bunt well. Once we saw the confidence he had, we knew the talent was going to go a long way, too."
When the season began, however, DeMers found himself in a slump. He accumulated five hits through the first eight games as the Tigers started 1-7.
Then in the middle of an 11-game stretch in Tucson, Arizona, DeMers exploded. He went 14-for-27 in the last six games of the Tucson Invitational and he has not slowed down since.
DeMers recorded a hit 13 straight games at one point and he's done so in 18 of the last 19 outings, while DWU has gone 10-9 during that stretch.
"It's tough to start the year inside. You don't get to see live pitching," DeMers said. "All you know is seeing your own pitchers. Those first eight games were tough to adjust to live pitching right away, but then we just relaxed and played baseball."
DeMers currently leads Northwestern's Ben De Boer in the race for the GPAC batting title by 42 points, while also ranking fourth in on-base percentage (.490) and stolen bases.
There are still 17 games left in the regular season, but DWU does not expect him to slow down any time soon, and even if he does, it won't last long.
"We just expect him to keep showing up with the same type of attitude, regardless of what's going on around him," Greicar said. "... You see it in really mature hitters-they just having a confidence level that stays there. They don't try to change too much. When something's not working, they just make the little adjustments and those types of hitters usually stay on top."
DeMers and DWU face Northwestern in a doubleheader on Saturday in Orange City, Iowa.