April 27, 2015
When Missouri-St. Louis junior Hannah Perryman allowed a fifth-inning single April 18 against Indianapolis, it ended a streak of 21 1/3 consecutive innings of perfect pitching.
No runs, no hits, no base runners of any kind: it’s been that kind of year for the former Elgin standout. She has mowed down one hitter, and one record, after another in pitching the Tritons (39-5) to the No. 3 ranking in NCAA Division II and the top seeding in the Midwest Regional.
Perryman threw her Division II-record fourth perfect game of the season against St. Joseph on April 17 — her fifth college perfect game, also a Division II record. It all earned her national pitcher of the week honors, but that’s become routine this year.
If Perryman’s mental game is better, she thinks it has something to do with coach Brian Levin getting the team acquainted with sports psychologist Brian Cain, a former Division I athlete and coach who has mentored more than 500 baseball, football, basketball and hockey draft picks.
“I feel like I’ve really stepped up my performance because of it,” she said. “I do a lot of relaxation and deep breathing. I’m trying to visualize what I’m about to do next and then let whatever I’m thinking happen, let it go.”
She felt the approach working against St. Joseph in a perfect game.
“That game I was really into routine,” she said. “This is also what they teach is routine, to go back to what you do in tough times. That game I just felt like I took it pitch by pitch and threw my best pitch every time and it worked out.”
In high school, and even through her sophomore college season, Perryman struggled with control at critical junctures without benefit of this approach.
“Then, I think it could have gone either way; it could have been bad or good,” she said. “I just felt I was a little bit more of a hot head then — if not a hot head, I just wasn’t as mature.”
The improvement goes beyond mental maturity.
“I’m in better shape,” she said. “I did more strength training and it made it easier for me to go further into games pitching well.”
That’s letting her field the position better, which is critical considering the number of bunts and slap hitters softball pitchers face.
Perryman has another edge this season with her freshman sister Jennah playing third base for the Tritons. Missouri-St. Louis has set a program record for most home runs in a season, with Jennah hitting 13.
“She’s awesome,” Hannah Perryman said. “She’s just fun to play with, keeps me loose and relaxed.
“If I’m throwing the ball bad, she’ll definitely let me know it and say, ‘You’ve got to start spinning the ball harder. They’re getting to you.’ It helps having someone here who knows how I pitch.”
Earlier this year, Levin saw the awards and honors being piled up by Perryman.
“I told the team that I certainly hope that they are aware of what they have been a part of, because it is something that they will probably never see again,” he said at the time.
Perryman, though, deflects the credit.
“It’s our team,” she said. “They take the pressure off of me if I know that it is hit, then someone else is going to catch it, or if they do score we have the ability to score more.
“They hit so well that no-hitters and perfect games are easier when you sometimes don’t pitch a full seven innings.”