Kaneisha Johnson and Susan Dorn excel in spot roles for Lady Cats softball
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

April 19, 2005 - When Sulphur Springs faced North Lamar two weeks ago, the Lady Cats held a tenuous 3-2 lead until the bottom of the fifth when they added a pair of runs to give them some breathing room in an eventual 7-4 victory.

The two pivotal runs were driven in courtesy of senior Kaneisha Johnson, whose RBI single up the middle plated courtesy runner Susan Dorn.

In that nutshell, Lady Cat head coach John McCullough can point to the value of those two seniors.

Every good team has role players and specialists who contribute in specific ways - players who come in for brief periods but who can immediately impact a game. For the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats, two of those players are seniors Kaneisha Johnson and Susan Dorn.

They both started a few games in right field earlier in the year, but since district play began four weeks ago, their roles have become more defined - Johnson as a late-inning pinch hitter and Dorn as a courtesy runner for the pitcher or catcher.

Because they accept their roles, they have excelled in them.

"Good teams are not complete without players like Kaneisha and Susan," said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "They do whatever you ask them to do. Teams that are good have to have people like that. Without that, when you have somebody who goes down, you don't have anybody ready to step in.

"Both of those ladies have done a great job for us all year. Whatever we ask them to do, they do that - and that's part of what makes this team good."

Dorn is not only a courtesy runner, she's a back-up outfielder and catcher. Against Greenville on Friday, starting catcher Nichole Fender was out, so Stephanie Kethley started behind the plate. McCullough said Dorn told him she could catch in an emergency, and he believed her since she warms up pitchers in the bullpen.

"It's exciting because we've been winning," she said. "Just being here and being a part of it gets you into the game, no matter what happens. Even if I don't get to run, I'm still happy to be a part of the team, and I'm in the dugout cheering."

She tries to be aggressive but smart on the basepaths, and has scored seven runs in district action.

While Dorn may run up to three or four times a game, Johnson is usually reserved for a late-inning at-bat with runners on base. In district play, she's 3-for-5 with three RBI and a run scored.

"Kaneisha right now is doing a great job of coming in an pinch-hitting for us. Every time she's had the opportunity to pinch hit, she's gone ahead and gotten a hit or found a way to get on base and drive a run in," McCullough said. "That's invaluable.

"Late in the game, you're always looking for someone to come up and get a big hit for you, and right now I have as much confidence in Kaneisha as I do anybody that she's either going to put it in play, drive the run in or do something positive to help us out."

Both girls say that staying ready to go in is just a matter of keeping their minds on the game. Dorn also charts pitches as part of her routine.

"Coach tells me usually an inning before to go swing a bat, and I go in the bullpen or behind the dugout and take a few swings," Johnson said. "When I get up to bat, I try to take my time, focus and hit the ball - mainly put the ball in play.

"I mainly focus on putting the ball in play and getting the runs in. I want to get on base and be a baserunner."

They both have good practice habits, which is essential for role players since they must maximize their time in the game.

"Whatever has been asked, they've done it," McCullough said. "They've both been with us for four years, and I don't think either of them has ever missed a practice."

Dorn added, "You practice like you play, play like you practice. If you don't practice good, you don't play right, so that's what we do - give 100 percent during practice."

When she's not working at Jack-in-the-Box, she's involved with Key Club as well as being on the SSHS volleyball team which went to the bi-district playoffs. After high school, she wants to work on becoming a veterinarian after caring for animals on a farm with her parents, JoAnn and Carl Dorn.

Johnson will continue playing softball even after the school year is over because she is on the Debs team that went to the national tournament last year. She's also part of the Key Club, Spanish Club, color guard and band. The daughter of Mary Johnson and Earl Dial, she plans on becoming an accountant.

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