Five-tool player. Easy to coach. Versatile. Great teammate.
The list goes on and on when talking about Foran senior Dani Kemp. A stand out catcher who is also a stellar shortstop, the weight of the world may have just been lifted off her shoulders.
Announcing she will attend Division I Stony Brook University in New York, where she will play softball for coach Megan Bryant, Kemp can now focus on her senior season as she hopes to lead the Lady Lions’ softball team deep into the state tournament once again.
“I loved the campus,” Kemp said of her decision to attend Stony Brook. “It is not too far from home. I can go home for a weekend if I want to. I felt comfortable there. I love Port Jeff and it is close to there. I love the coaches and it was beautiful there. I loved everything about it.
“It is so much relief. I can focus on softball. I felt like I was so late in the process. Half my teammates on my travel team (Connecticut Charmers) already knew where they were going their junior year.”
The Foran senior began playing softball at the age of seven. Kemp moved on to the Milford Little League before starting her travel play at the age of 10.
“I definitely feel it helped me,” Kemp said of travel ball. “You are playing with the best players in and out of the state. The college coaches are all over when you go to showcases. We went to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Colorado and we went to Florida in the fall.”
Kemp came on the softball scene at Foran with immediate pressure. Replacing a two-time All-State player behind the plate in Rachel Booth, Kemp knew much would be expected of her and the Foran star delivered.
Playing 28 games, Kemp finished her first season with a .366 batting average, a .505 on base percentage and a .609 slugging percentage. As a freshman. Kemp stole 18 bases, scored 36 runs and had nine doubles, four triples and one homerun.
“Freshman year, I had a lot to prove,” Kemp said. “Rachel Booth was a two-time All-State catcher. That pushed me. Practicing every day and competing with my best friend (Fallon Bevino) made me better. We have been friends our whole lives. She definitely showed me the way.”
Foran softball coach Jeff Bevino has had a chance to see Kemp play since she was a youngster as Kemp and former Foran star and Bevino’s daughter, Fallon, are great friends.
“I have known her and I have seen her play since she was eight years old,” Jeff Bevino said of Kemp. “She is a five-tool player. There is nothing she can’t do. I mean that sincerely.
“I have been able to coach her the last three years. I have watched her play travel ball. She has played catcher, shortstop and outfield. She can play anywhere. She is so versatile. She can run, hit, hit for power, bunt, field. Stony Brook got a steal as far as I am concerned.”
As a sophomore, Kemp was just as good, hitting .413, with a .430 on base percentage and a .568 slugging percentage. Kemp stole 10 bases, scored 21 runs, drove in 25 and hit four homers.
Last season, with a team decimated by injuries, Kemp continued to excel, playing shortstop at the beginning of the season, before moving back behind the plate.
“It says, first and foremost, she is so unselfish,” Jeff Bevino said. “Again, we can play her at shortstop and she will be one of the best shortstops around. Everyone knows she is a really good catcher. My plan has been to put her wherever we need her.”
Hitting .446 with 37 hits, Kemp also had an on base percentage of .465 and a slugging percentage of .662 in a year the Lions did not advance to the league or state finals.
“She gets better and better every day,” Jeff Bevino said. “She has unbelievable power. She can do it all. I have seen her hit shots to right, center and left. I watched her this summer with Fallon and she was just great hitting.
“Dani is a delight to coach. She is a great kid. She is one of those kids who is not only a great player, but a great kid as well.”
The compliments go both ways. Knowing the Bevino family for quite some time, Kemp appreciates all her coach does.
“Mr. Bevino means a lot to me,” Kemp said. “He is like a dad for me. His opinion and thoughts mean a lot to me.”
One of the highest compliments about Kemp came from Foran’s rival as Law head coach Melanie Paolini is well aware of what Kemp brings to the table.
“Dani is a tough competitor,” Paolini said. “She is one of the best all-around athletes to come out of Milford and her presence on the field or court, right from freshman year, was that of an upperclassman. Dani can take over a game at any point and put the team on her back for a victory.”
Kemp was also a star on the basketball and volleyball courts at Foran, but realizing softball was her direction in college, Kemp has since decided to play just softball her senior campaign.
Kemp played her first two years on the basketball court and was a three-year member of the Foran volleyball team, which lost in the state finals last season.
“I want to focus on softball,” Kemp said of not playing volleyball this season. “Of course, I will miss it. It was so much fun. I started playing volleyball as a freshman. I never played before that.
“The first two years of basketball were really tough on my body. I would play J.V. and varsity and it was non-stop for two hours. I played and I felt like I was beat up for softball season. I will miss volleyball so much. I will do something. I can’t sit around.”
From 2011 to 2014, Kemp had 526 digs, which is a volleyball school record. Behind her defensive play, Foran advanced to the finals last season, before falling to Woodland in the Class M championship match.
After coming within reach of a state title her first two seasons on the softball diamond, Kemp watched as injuries derailed Foran’s state title chase last season. For Kemp, that missed opportunity is motivation for the 2015 spring season.
“Unfortunately, we had to deal with injuries last season,” Kemp said. “We did not go really far. It was a tough year.”
With eight months to prepare for the upcoming season, Kemp is already focused on what she needs to do for her senior year and beyond.
Her head coach is not surprised.
“She has the drive to be an excellent player,” Jeff Bevino said. “She is going to get better every single year. There is no doubt in my mind. There is nothing she can’t do. She’s a no-brainer. What can’t she do? She is smart, fast and she has a tremendous arm. You can’t go wrong with her as a player.”
Kemp enters her senior campaign with a .409 career batting average, 105 hits, 44 runs batted in, six triples, seven homers, 40 stolen bases, an on base percentage of .488 and a .592 slugging percentage.
Jeff Bevino and the Milford community are well aware of how good Kemp is. Megan Bryant and Stony Brook University are about to find out when Kemp takes her talents to New York.