SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University softball team has appeared in 21 of the past 23 NCAA tournaments, setting the bar high for the program. The 2019 edition will look to continue that tradition, but will need to do so with a number of new faces.
A trio of seniors are poised to lead and see time at new positions, while nine new players – eight freshman and a transfer – will don the maroon and gold this year.
"That's always exciting to see people with new drive and they're hungry," 23rd year Head Coach Margie Knight said. "And of those new players, I really think several are going to be impact players in our program maybe this year and definitely for years to come. It is exciting to see that."
Senior Amelia Trotter came to Salisbury as a shortstop, transitioned to third base, and will begin the 2019 season as the team's starting first baseman and one of the leaders.
"I think she's an outstanding leader and that's one of her best attributes for the team and that's hard to find," Knight said. "Her work ethic is outstanding and her leadership is top notch. She holds others accountable, and she can do that because she holds herself accountable on every play."
Last season, Trotter played in 42 games and will likely see time at both corner infield positions. She has spent time in the preseason mentoring freshman first baseman Breann Smith.
Trotter will be joined in the infield by junior Dakotah Fraley, who started all 45 games at shortstop a year ago. Fraley was named to the All-Capital Athletic Conference team and was a second team choice for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Atlantic Region Team.
"We're really glad to have her back. She's being more assertive and we're putting more responsibility on her to have a voice and help direct traffic," Knight said.
Fraley hit .420 last season, belting seven home runs and driving in 39 runs.
Junior transfer Kaleigh Edwards will likely get the call at third base to begin the season, having spent the past two seasons at the Division I level, but will face competition from freshman BK Hewitt.
Second base is still a battle between returning sophomore Lilly Wingo, who played in 11 games last season, and freshman Kendall Dixon. Knight explains that a platoon situation is not out of the question as each player brings a different skill set.
Along with their strong defensive play, Allen and Alexander are second and third on the team among returners in slugging percentage from 2018, as each bat will find a spot in the lineup for nearly every game.
Cat Ramagnano is expected to anchor the outfield, having played right field throughout the 2018 season, she will move to center field for her senior campaign.
"She looks really good and is clearly feeling very confident," Knight said. "Our communication is still something we're working on. She's still only in her second year with us, but she's very smart and a fast learner."
Ramagnano's speed and that of sophomore Sami Mumford, who spent the majority of 2018 in left field, allowed them to go for 18 and 19 stolen bases, respectively, last season – the two highest totals on the team. That quickness allows them to run down almost any ball hit their way.
Two returners in the circle will be joined by a pair of new faces, giving Salisbury depth and a breadth of styles on the pitching staff in 2019.
Senior Shannon Powell worked in 28 games with 20 starts last season, posting a 12-6 record with a 3.46 earned-run average.
"She brings three years of experience with her and a calm demeanor in the circle, whether we're up by a lot or it's a tied game in the bottom of the seventh inning," Knight said. "That calm is very good for the rest of our staff.
Junior Alexis Layton appeared in 14 games last season and will be relied upon again in 2019.
"She is attacking her position with a different mindset this year and I think it's been very positive for her," Knight said.
The Sea Gulls begin play on Friday with a doubleheader against the University of Rochester, before facing its first of five opponents who are ranked or receiving votes in the preseason NFCA poll, seeing No. 18 The College of New Jersey on Sunday.
Salisbury plays 16 of its first 22 games at home, and will travel to two-time defending national champion No. 1 Virginia Wesleyan University on March 6 before opening CAC play at Penn State University-Harrisburg on Mach 30.
The CAC tournament will be played April 26 through May 5 with the top six teams in the league standings qualifying in hopes of earning the league's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
"One of our mottos has been the every game is the championship game." Knight said. "When we our conference didn't have an automatic qualification that's how we played every contest. So when we did get to the championship game we had already played 36 of them. I think we need to bring back that mindset instead of worrying about trying to get the AQ. We need to start playing like this game is a championship game. And that needs to start this weekend."