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After being honored with 2 end-of-season awards, Wood grad Fanelli looking toward the future


Dakota Fanelli began playing softball at the age of 8. When she turned 10, she realized that she wanted to fully dedicate herself to the sport.

Fast forward eight years down the road.

At the end of her tenure with Archbishop Wood, Fanelli received two of the highest accomplishments a player can obtain in the Philadelphia Catholic League: Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Pitcher of the Year.

“[Receiving] both is a huge accomplishment and I couldn’t do it without my teammates or coaches,” Fanelli said during an over-the-phone interview. “They strive [for] me to be the best athlete on and off the field. I’m very thankful for all of them.”

In her final season with the Vikings, Fanelli amassed 188 strikeouts in 132.2 innings pitched. Furthermore, she displayed her versatility on the offensive side, hitting .380 (.417 on base percentage, .670 slugging percentage), which contributed to her MVP award.

“The [Philadelphia] Catholic League has a lot of amazing players,” Fanelli said. “To be named MVP of the season is a huge thing and I can’t even put it into words.”

Fanelli also won Pitcher of the Year in 2022, marking back-to-back honors for the award. In her career, Fanelli recorded over 500 strikeouts.

To reach this level of success, hard work is necessary. In the offseason, Fanelli frequents Relentless, a gym located in Philadelphia, where she prioritizes strength training. When she’s not at Relentless, she dedicates time to individual pitching sessions with Laura Beth McCreesh, a former La Salle University softball pitcher that she has worked with since she was 8.

“[Laura] got me to where I am today and I can’t thank her enough,” Fanelli said.

Along with her individual workouts, Fanelli would do team workouts with her travel squads Blue Thunder and Chaos. Chaos, which is her current team, holds five-hour long workouts on Sunday at an indoor complex during the winter.

Beyond Fanelli’s exceptional skill and work ethic, her resilience stands out. Her entire freshman season was canceled due to COVID-19. Prior to the cancellation, Fanelli faced a setback; one that happened due to a slight misstep.

“I fell off the school bus saying bye to my bus driver,” Fanelli said. “I got my arm caught in the door and I broke my arm.”

It was her love for the game that pushed her to do physical therapy. All she wanted to do was get back to the field. She knew that participating in it would get her back the fastest, so she did it twice a week.

“What drove me was the will to play softball again,” Fanelli said. “It’s my biggest hobby.”

What’s incredible, though, is that she was dealing with a right-hand injury this past season.

This past March, Fanelli was with the Vikings in Clearwater, Fla., for spring training. During an at-bat, she got jammed on an inside pitch and her thumb on her right hand bent backwards. Despite being injured, she remained resolute, knowing it would cause her pain – which it did.

The Vikings were coming off an incredible 2022 season, one that culminated with them hoisting the PCL Championship trophy. It had been 22 years since Wood’s last PCL title victory, which made the accomplishment all the more significant. Fanelli wanted to tough it out for her team. They were eager to defend their title. However, despite their best efforts, Wood narrowly missed their goal, falling to Archbishop Ryan in the semifinals.

Following the season, Fanelli visited doctors to schedule an MRI to determine the extent of her injury. She hopes that it only calls for physical therapy and no surgery is needed.

Having committed to play softball for Arcadia University, Fanelli’s offseason focus is continuing to hone her pitching and hitting skills while allowing her hand to heal. She is meticulously working out, adapting to an athletic lifestyle that calls for only one hand.

“Right now I’m just lifting and doing everything I can with my left hand,” Fanelli said.

Interestingly, the same injuries that have plagued her have also led to career aspirations. Come this fall, Fanelli will be majoring in physical therapy, something she has experience in.

“I chose physical therapy because as an athlete who competes all year long, I have ran into quite a lot of injuries,” Fanelli said. “From broken bones, popped out shoulder, etc. Every time I got injured, I had a great team of physical therapists who helped me back on the field, stronger and better than I was before my injury.”

“I want to help other people the same way those physical therapists helped me. I want to give people the chance to do what they love again after they experienced an injury and help motivate them to become stronger and better than before.”

Having the opportunity to continue to play softball while studying with “one of the best physical therapy programs in the world” is the best-case scenario in her eyes. The well-reputed program gives her the best opportunity to help people in the future – the same way her physical therapists helped her.

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