BY MITCHELL NORTHAM
Most baseball and softball teams reserve the role of the leadoff hitter for someone who can make contact with the ball, but also someone with speed.
But Salisbury University’s head softball coach Margie Knight doesn’t run her program like most other teams. At the top of the lineup, she values power and plate discipline over speed.
“For years we have led off with power hitters,” Knight said. “Harley Hill (who graduated last year) was probably the only home run hitter I haven’t led off with since like, 2003. But she was just this gap, doubles, great eye, beautiful swing hitter.”
In her 19 years, Knight hasn’t strayed away from her formula too much. So when she needed to fill the void at the leadoff position this season she turned to junior shortstop Kim Dorsey.
“It took a while to get used to,” Dorsey said. “But I just try to get enough pitches down there so everyone else can see the pitcher and then just try and get a hard hit. That’s always what I’ve tried to do.”
Dorsey is the complete package for what Knight or any other coach would want in a leadoff hitter.
She’s fast – leading the team in stolen bases with four – but also displays the power that Knight wants, having hit a team-leading seven home runs this season. On Saturday against Christopher Newport, her latest blast over the fence moved her to ninth all-time in Sea Gulls’ softball history for home runs.
Leading off is new to Dorsey. In high school and during her first few years as a Sea Gull, the Baltimore native hit in either the three or four slot in the lineup.
Those positions in the batting order are typically reserved for Dorsey’s type – that of a power hitter – but she’s more versatile than that. In addition to leading the 20-1 Sea Gulls in home runs and stolen bases, she also leads her team in batting average (.485), slugging percentage (.926), on-base percentage (.576), runs scored with 32, hits with 33 and total bases – tallying 63 trips to either base this season.
“Kim has great eye, makes great contact and can deliver from the one spot just like all of our number one’s have done in the past,” Knight said. “If you can get people at the bottom of the lineup on then we’re going to deliver.
“We were having a little bit of trouble with that early but now they’re starting to get on and I can see Kim knocking in a lot of RBI’s for us down the stretch.”
Dorsey has knocked in 14 batters to score runs this season, but for all of her power-hitting prowess, she is also disciplined at the plate. She’s drawn 14 walks this season – which lead the team too – and has only struck out four times in 61 at-bats.
“Kim has done awesome,” senior ace pitcher Rachel Johnson said. “She’s had a lot of leadoff home runs, but she sees a lot of pitches which helps us in the dugout see what the other pitcher is doing.”
In 2014, Dorsey was named to the All-Capital Athletic Conference first team, earned three CAC player of the week awards and was named an All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. In her sophomore season, Dorsey batted for an average of .422, hit 15 home runs and batted in 61 runs, helping propel the Sea Gulls to the Division III National Championship where they lost in three games to Tufts.
Last season Dorsey typically hit third in the lineup, but a few games into this season, Knight asked her to hit leadoff. At first, Dorsey thought it was because of her speed, but realized that it was her bat and vision – not her feet – that made her perfect for the top of the lineup.
“I think it’s because I make good contact and because I get the bat on the ball,” Dorsey said. “Our lineup is stacked so anyone could’ve been leadoff, so I’m just glad that I have people behind me that can hit me in.”
Knight values her speed too. In certain situations, Dorsey can be a threat to swipe a bag from the opposing team.
“It depends on the situation and depends on what coach thinks,” Dorsey said. “If coach thinks that I can get there then I’m going to try my hardest.”
“She is very fast,” Knight said. “She’s just a great all-around player.”
In her third year as a Sea Gull, Dorsey has improved even further, and her glove at shortstop has become valuable too. For Johnson – when’s she’s pitching from the circle – she feels a certain sense of security when Dorsey is behind her between second and third.
“She is a great player and having her right there makes me feel more confident,” Johnson said. “She’ll make a good play often for me and that picks you up whenever you see your fielders do something awesome.”
On Wednesday, two wins against Stevenson University notched win nos. 699 and 700 for Knight as a coach at Salisbury. For Dorsey, through the wins and losses, ups and downs and position changes, she’s happy that she came to Salisbury for softball and credits Knight for much of her successes as a player.
“It’s amazing, but it’s not easy,” Dorsey said of playing under Knight. “She never stops pushing us, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here and under her coaching.”