College softball pitchers are not often called upon to be their team's offensive leader.
But Columbus State junior Kristen Carr is an exception to that rule, as she is one of the Lady Cougars' top returning pitchers and is also an all-Peach Belt Conference selection as a hitter as well.
"From a hitting standpoint, (Carr) is going to be right in the middle of the lineup," said Columbus State coach Brad Huskisson, whose team opens its season Saturday at the PBC/SSC Challenge at South Commons.
"Last year, she put up numbers that not a lot of people do in their first year in this conference.
"She can go deep every single pitch and that's something we take pride in as a program."
In 2013, Carr was named first team all-PBC and first team all-Southeast Region after leading the Lady Cougars in RBIs (38) and finishing second on the team in homers (12) and doubles (10). Carr batted. 279 in 147 at-bats, had a .592 slugging percentage and finished with a .331 on-base percentage as well.
In the circle, she posted a record of 7-2 with two saves in 17 appearances (six starts). She had an ERA of 2.15 and struck out 67 batters in 65 innings of work.
"Pitching-wise, we knew we had Mollie Russell the last two years, and it came down to (Taylor) Turner and her for No. 2 job," Huskisson said. "With Moillie being gone now, I'm not sure sure if she'll double her appearances from last year (17), but I figure she's going to be making 25-30 appearances for us.
"I still think Kristen isn't a one or two-inning pitcher, but she's very much the protoype of a reliever. She has command of three pitches and throws hard, but she does walk people. She's going to be a starter to start with, but we'll see. We have two other pitchers besides (Carr and Turner), so we may use the other three as starters and let (Carr) close. We might have a starting rotation, which is uncommon in softball."
Carr, who is a preseason all-PBC selection for this season, said she prefers pitching to hitting and is looking forward to the idea of being a starting pitcher.
"I love both of them, but if I had to choose one, I'd say pitching," said the 6-foot-3 Carr, who hails from Gray, Ga. "I like pitching better because of the excitement you get from being out there in the circle. You get that big out, whether it's a strikeout or whatever, and you have that fist pump and it gets everybody going.
"I like the excitement that our team gets when I'm able to strike somebody out. (Being a starting pitcher) is exciting. It feels good to be out there as a starter. Your goal coming out of high school is to be a leader and be a starting pitcher, but in college tou have to earn your spot. That's what I've been doing, earning my spot."
Huskisson said the biggest key to Carr's success at the plate is her ability to avoid long slumps, but that she can get a little too pumped up when she's in the circle.
"The No. 1 thing that makes her so good offensively is she doesn't think when she's batting," Huskisson said. "If she has a bad at-bat, she doesn't get down.
"A lot of people swing at a bad pitch or have a bad at-bat and it carries over to the next at-bat or the next game. She doesn't do that. When she's hitting, she just does same thing each at-bat and that's a big reason why she's so successful.
"She doesn't carry anything over and that's awesome. Pitching-wise, she's emotional. She'll fist pump when she gets a strikeout and she'll get mad when she walks somebody or doesn't get the call she wants. If we ever get her mindset pitching-wise to be the same as she is hitting-wise, she can be really good both ways."
Even though the Lady Cougars went 41-18 last year and won the Peach Belt Conference tournament for the second straight season -- outscoring their three tournament opponents 21-1 -- they were picked to finish third in the PBC preseason coaches poll.
Carr said she and her teammates have been working hard to not just win another conference title this season, but win a national title as well.
"We've all been working hard and wanting to achieve one goal," said Carr. "We want to win the World Series. We've been working hard in practice, working out the kinks and trying to get better."