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Ramstein's Kelsey Freeman pitched a no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader against Lakenheath in March. Freeman has been selected Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year.

Ramstein's Kelsey Freeman pitched a no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader against Lakenheath in March. Freeman has been selected Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Ramstein's Kelsey Freeman pitched a no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader against Lakenheath in March. Freeman has been selected Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year.

Ramstein's Kelsey Freeman pitched a no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader against Lakenheath in March. Freeman has been selected Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Ramstein's Kelsey Freeman looks to the umpire after stealing third against Lakenheath's Nikki Gill in a game in March. Freeman has been selected Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year.

Ramstein's Kelsey Freeman looks to the umpire after stealing third against Lakenheath's Nikki Gill in a game in March. Freeman has been selected Stars and Stripes softball Athlete of the Year. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Ramstein junior Kelsey Freeman just completed her third straight All-Europe-level season with a 7-2 record, a 1.79 earned-run average, a strikeout-to-walks ratio of nearly 12-1 and a European Division I title-game victory.

Talk about enhancing the resume. For her three-year career, Freeman, a right-hander, is 23-3 with 206 strikeouts and has allowed just 32 earned runs.

But what impressed the Stars and Stripes’ 2012 softball Athlete of the Year, who didn’t lose a game in this year’s tournament, was the rest of her team, which ended its one-year absence from the D-I throne room with a 9-5 victory over Vilseck and a record ninth European crown.

“The highlight for me was how great our team was together,” Freeman said by telephone on Wednesday. “The intensity was so much more than last year, yet everyone was so encouraging to each other, even when things went bad.”

For coach Kathy Kleha, who won a title in her first year at the helm of the Royals, Freeman’s focus on the team was far from unexpected.

“This year she became more of a team player than a ‘me’ player,” Kleha emailed on Monday. “She stepped up to put the needs of her team above hers at the end of the season.”

Those late needs deepened when Ramstein, 11-3 during the regular season, dropped two one-run games to West Region champion Kaiserslautern on the final day of the season.

But Freeman, who struck out 94 batters and walked just eight, said the losses at K-town merely stoked the Royals’ fires.

“It was very motivating for us,” she recalled. “It got us ready for the tournament.”

For Freeman throws a fastball, curve, screwball and change-up and said she’s working on a “rise-ball.” She said tourney preparations involved more than attitude adjustment.

“Our pitching coach (former Lakenheath standout and present U.S. Air Force Capt. Lindzi Howder) had me working on throwing to spots, depending on the batter – where she stands in the box and how she swings. It really made a difference.”

Freeman, a product of the potent Ramstein youth softball programs, cited watching former Royals All-European Maddie Byrd pitch as her inspiration to excel in the sport. She sees experiences such as an all-star stint last summer as one of the advantages of playing in Europe.

“Some of my friends have moved to the States.” Freeman said, “They play on club and traveling teams and get midweek games. They also get seen by college coaches. But we’ve gotten to play in Italy and the Netherlands and played against Russia. You don’t get to do that in the States.”

This summer, however, Freeman’s planning to try her hand in the States before returning to Ramstein for her senior year.

“I hope to get on with a club or travel team,” she said, eyeing a chance to put her talent on display for college scouts and taking her abilities to a new level.

“She’s always trying to get better,” Kleha wrote.

One thing, however, won’t get better, Freeman said.

“It’s so sad,” she said, returning to thoughts about her team, “to think that so many of our teammates won’t be back next year.”

bryanr@estripes.osd.mil

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