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Sports Article
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Freer, Gooch Secure College Softball Opportunities
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Dani Freer and Kylene Gooch have helped Upper Perkiomen's softball team remain one of the top programs in the Pioneer Athletic Conference. Now that both have solidified their careers after high school, they are determined to help the Tribe reach new heights.

Dani Freer, center, with her parents Lisa and Richard.


           Freer and Gooch are ready to set personal accolades aside and lead the Indians back to postseason prominence in the spring. Both seniors will serve as team captains during the 2022 season, according to head coach Dean Sullivan.  "I'm sure they will take care of any problems we might have," he said.

            With Freer committing to continue her career at the University of Pennsylvania, and Gooch deciding to play at Lafayette College, the duo will take one more swing at winning Upper Perk's first Pioneer Athletic Conference title in 34 years, capturing another District One crown and making a deep run in the PIAA tournament.

            "I'm playing for the team," Freer said. "I want to make sure I get to have one more good year with my friends."

Kylene Gooch, second from right, with Upper Perkiomen coach

Dean Sulivan, TNT coach Chris Spletzer and her mother, Beth.


            According to Gooch, advancing to the PAC championship game is a priority for the Indians, who have won five consecutive Frontier Division titles. She expects Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley and Methacton to be among their toughest competition.

The team last competed in the conference playoffs in 2017.  Inclement weather and COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the Final Four in each of the last four seasons.

            The Indians won consecutive District One Class 4A titles in 2017 and 2018. They finished third the following season.

            Freer, a Hereford Township resident who expects to major in business and attend the Wharton School, committed to the Quakers during the first month of her junior year at Upper Perkiomen. She described the decision as a significant relief.  "I feel like I don't have to play for anyone else," said Freer, a shortstop for the Tribe. "My senior year, I can play for myself."

            Despite receiving interest from numerous Division I programs – including the College of Charleston, Villanova, St. Joseph's UNC Charlotte, Virginia Tech and Dartmouth – Freer described Penn as a sentimental favorite. She has attended several camps there since eighth grade and expressed an affinity for Philadelphia.  "The coaches at Penn are great," Freer said. "And I love the city."

            She expects to play one of two middle infield positions for the Quakers, probably shortstop. According to Sullivan, she would also do a quality job in a corner outfield position.

            "Dani will thrive when she settles in [at Penn]," the coach said. "She's got the quickness and a hell of a throwing arm for her size. Her defense is on point, and she generates a lot of power on offense."

            In 2021, during an abbreviated season due to concerns over the novel coronavirus, Freer posted a .424 batting average with 17 RBIs and 19 runs scored. She was named to the Pioneer Athletic Conference's second team. Sullivan described it as a slight by opposing coaches.  "Dani deserved better," the coach said.

            Freer hit in the middle of the lineup as part of the Tribe's potent offense. She used her speed to leg out bunt hits and steal bases. On defense, she relies on quickness to gobble up ground balls.

            The player credited Coach Eric Reid of the PA Sting travel team, located in Limerick, and her dad for teaching her proper defensive fundamentals. According to Freer, sound footwork is the key to becoming a good fielder.  "It allows you to get around the infield," she said.

            Keeping her swing sharp has been more challenging, according to Freer. She said she receives personal hitting instructions once a week when she is not playing regularly.  "I need to stay ahead of the game," said Freer, who overcame a broken left wrist suffered in a scrimmage in March of 2020, one day before the entire spring season was canceled due to COVID-19. "I've gotten better at figuring out pitching patterns and working the count."

            Gooch, a Red Hill resident who plans on majoring in robotics and mechanical engineering, chose the Leopards due to the quality of their engineering program. She said the rivalry with Lehigh University and its proximity to home were also factors.

            While also considering Youngstown State, a Division I school in Ohio, as well as Franklin & Marshall, Widener and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gooch made academics the priority. In August, she committed to play for Lafayette, which deems schoolwork superior to athletics. She said practice is not allowed to start before 4 p.m. during the week.

            The Leopards recruited Gooch as a utility infielder. Sullivan said she is good enough to play first, second, short or third.  "Kylene is really smooth," the coach said. "She understands the game and is always in the right spots. She always wants the ball."

            Last spring, Gooch parlayed her defensive acumen into individual honors for the Indians. The second baseman, who committed just one error in 57 chances, earned First Team All-Conference honors in the Frontier Division. She made an offensive impact as well, posting a .301 batting average while driving in 14 runs and scoring 14.

            Gooch developed her defensive skills playing for TNT, a club team based in Telford. Her focus has been on learning proper footwork and increasing her release.  "Everything starts from the ground up," she said. "I've watched a lot of baseball, so I know how the game is supposed to be played."

            According to Sullivan, Gooch could be poised to enhance her reputation as a two-way player for the Indians. The coach says she has shown significant improvement as a hitter during winter workouts.  "Kylene is making solid contact," Sullivan said. "She's a consistent hitter. She has put the work in."

            Gooch, who broke into the Tribe's starting lineup as a ninth-grader, said her offensive approach took a significant step forward during the fall of 2020 when she was playing for TNT. Her confidence increased as she collected multiple extra-base hits.  "I felt like I was catching the ball well," Gooch said.





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