Elgin's Perryman achieved success through adversity
This is one of those stories of success, perseverance, determination and no more fear.
All wrapped up into one 5-foot-5 Elgin High School senior who can throw a softball faster than just about anyone who has ever played in the Fox Valley.
It's a story of success both on the softball field as well as off it. Success born from maturation as well as all of the above mentioned qualities.
It's a story of records being broken, but also a story about how a game became a solace away from a horrible situation.
It's a story that's been told in bits and pieces, and now the high school part of it culminates as the left-hander prepares to take both her stories to college and continue to mesh them as one.
It's the story of Hannah Perryman.
Always known as one who could throw a softball with college-desired velocity, this spring Perryman soared to new heights in the circle for the Maroons. And 18 months after gaining national recognition for being instrumental in legislation that toughened Illinois' stalking laws, Perryman is now graduated from Elgin High, but not before being selected as the honorary captain of the 2012 Daily Herald Fox Valley all-area team, just one of the many postseason awards she's sure to earn.
"I've really become speechless in describing what Hannah did this year," said Elgin coach Chad Dahlman, a former pitcher for Larkin's baseball program. "It was one of the most dominating pitching seasons I've ever seen in baseball or softball."
How dominating? Well, even though the record was just 17-9 for the 20-12 Maroons, in 176 innings Perryman struck out a school record 372 batters. Yes, that's an average of more than 2 strikeouts per inning. An even 100 batters took a called third strike from her exploding riseball or her twisting curve, opponents hit .112 off her, her ERA was 1.31 on a team that struggled with defensive consistency, her WHIP was 0.68, she averaged 14.8 strikeouts per game, her 47 walks (1.87 per game) showed better control than in years past, she had 9 shutouts and only 3 wild pitches all season. She struck out 20 in a 9-0 win against Cary-Grove in the Prairie Ridge round robin, then just for the heck of it struck out 19 more two hours later against PR.
That's how dominating. And for good measure, the Super 60 selection also set the Elgin career record of 840 strikeouts, breaking both 1996 records set by Liz Waller, an amazing pitcher who also had the benefit of pitching from 40 feet, not today's 43.
The rapid elevation in Perryman's numbers came from three main sources — control, maturity and coaching.
Long coached by her dad, Mark, last summer Perryman played travel ball for a Lemont Rockers team coached by Mike Batts and Pat Rzegocki, whose daughter Suzie just completed a stellar career at Purdue.
"They had me pitching all the time against good hitters and had me getting ahead in counts," said Perryman, who is signed to play at Missouri-St. Louis. "That's what really made the drastic jump. They gave me confidence by playing against good teams and good hitters that I could strike them out. They got that riseball spinning more and the curveball spinning more. My dad had worked with me all the time on hitting spots and they worked with me on that too. Just having that extra person helped."
Bringing that to the high school season, Perryman encountered several games, especially early in the season, where the Maroons' defense was less than stellar. That's where the maturity took over.
"She got ahead in counts but she also matured," said Dahlman. "She's played so much softball but seeing her maturity level from last year to this year was really something. She'd come up with the big strikeout whenever we needed it and she didn't let the errors get to her like in the past. She was more confident and she became more of a leader. I can't tell you how many big pitches she made for us after we'd give up extra outs."
She wasn't half bad with the bat either. A year after hitting an area-high 9 home runs, she came back with 5 more this season, the most memorable a solo walk off shot over the Judson University scoreboard to beat crosstown rival Larkin 1-0. She ended up hitting .333 with 5 doubles and 27 RBI. She only struck out 3 times in 93 at-bats.
"She hit in the 3-4 hole for me for three years," said Dahlman. "She drove in runs for us and really came on at the end. She started hitting the ball where it was pitched and that was part of her maturity. Her home runs were down a few but no one was pitching her inside so she adjusted and had a great average. She always put the ball in play."
"Hitting's fun," said Perryman. "I really don't know when I started hitting so well."
She sure does remember when she started playing softball. It was in an in-house league in Streamwood. She started as a catcher and said, "I was not so good as a pitcher. I'd throw 10 over the backstop and it was just a big walkfest."
On to the Streamwood Magic travel program she went, where the coach told her to get a bigger glove.
"It was bigger than my head," Hannah laughed, "and I'd be out there waving it around and we'd lose every single game like 32-0. My grandpa always says now 'Remember that 10-year old girl that got beat up on?' It wasn't fun."
But through more years of travel ball, continued coaching from her dad as well as longtime local pitching coach Jill Waldron, the game became more and more fun and Perryman got better and better. In 2008, when she was selected to play in an Adidas top 100 camp, which had over 500 girls try out, she knew this was her game for sure.
"I remember thinking I'm not getting picked for this," Perryman said. "And when I got the call I wanted to cry. I was like 'Oh my God, I got picked.' "
Perryman points to the mental preparation a pitcher has to have between travel ball and high school as being a key to her success.
"It's different in high school," she said. "It's always seven innings. Some travel games might just go four innings. My whole mental thing was to get ahead. You can't be throwing pitches all over the place and have to keep coming back. Before I'd just throw junk pitches and try to come back with my fastball but my fastball hasn't been that great. I've had to use the riseball and the curve more. We made a lot of errors sometimes and the mental aspect of the game is that you have to get over the errors and go after the batters and not get down on yourself."
Perryman got a little lucky the past two years, latching onto a catcher in sophomore Kelly Bremer that she meshed with.
"She's been amazing," Perryman said of Bremer. "There's no way I could have done what I did without her. She's phenomenal. She has a really good mental aspect of the game and she does a great job of calling pitches."
Perryman had to intertwine her academics and athletics with becoming a national news story in November of 2010, when the story came out about she and her younger sister, Jennah, being victims of a stalker as far back as when Hannah was in fifth grade. Unable to get a court order of protection against the stalker, Hannah went on a mission that ended with the Illinois legislature adopting stricter stalking laws and penalties. She hated being home alone, and she didn't have to because of softball.
"Softball was my savior," said Perryman, who will study criminology at UMSL, hoping someday to get an internship with the FBI and work in behavioral analysis.
"I hated being at home. I'd go to a tournament two hours early or I always wanted to go practice. Who wants to be at home when there's somebody sitting outside all the time? Softball helped me through it. People had no idea what it was like to go through that."
Opposing softball hitters found out what it was like to go through facing Hannah Perryman from 43 feet away this spring and 372 of them became victims of a vicious strikeout pitch by one of the premier pitchers to ever play in the Fox Valley.
And a young lady who deserves all the success and accolades she's had to work harder than most to achieve.
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