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Wayne Cavadi | | April 6, 2016

DII Women's Notebook: Perryman sets strikeout record; LCU goes undefeated

  Hannah Perryman is already earning decorations early in the 2016 season.

The 2016 DII Softball season opened with two rival pitchers on the heels of taking down the all-time DII strikeout record. The question wasn’t who was going to break the record, it was who was going to get there first. 

Missouri-St. Louis senior Hannah Perryman answered that question this past weekend.

Perryman, a three-time NFCA All-American, is the new NCAA DII leader in career strikeouts. This past weekend she passed Torie Bunzell of Quincy with her 1,540th strikeout and continued to add to her list in the Tritons important 3-1 victory over Truman State in the backend of a double header. She now sits at 1,543, 11th all-time across all levels of collegiate softball.

“It was nerve-racking,” Perryman said. “I knew I was 15 strikeouts away from it, but I was trying not to make a big deal out of it and was trying to win. I had 10 strikeouts the first game and I got the start for the second game. It was the most nervous I’ve been in a long time.”

More importantly, it was a huge win in the GLVC that kept UMSL (37-4, 15-3) two games behind conference leader UIndy (34-1, 17-1). The loss moved Truman State one game behind UMSL in the standings, tied for third with both Maryville and Southern Indiana at 14-4 in a log jam of great teams atop the conference. 

GLVC fans have been treated to a little in-conference rivalry over the past several seasons. UIndy’s Morgan Foley and Perryman have risen to great heights pitching for their respective teams. As the teams within the conference have begun to come to the forefront of DII softball, Foley and Perryman have been pitching their way to the tops of all-time leaderboards. 

“Our conference is so good,” Perryman said of the GLVC. “There is not one team that isn’t hard to beat. Foley — she’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever had the pleasure of pitching against. It’s always a good game between us, we push each other to work harder every season. It’s fun to know that we’ll be seeing [UIndy].”

Being atop the standings is something that Perryman has become accustom to in her tenure at UMSL. The Tritons had a mere two NCAA postseason appearances prior to Perryman’s arrival in 2013. Since she took the mound and the GLVC by storm, UMSL has made three consecutive NCAA tournaments, including consecutive Super Regionals.

“I never expected this,” Perryman said. “It’s something that you dream about. I came here, I fell in love with the campus and the coach. [UMSL head coach Brian Levin] told me that he was building a team here and that I was going to be the base of the pitching staff. He’s believed in me since day one, and has known somehow that this is what I could come to be. Being on a team that has become increasingly better each year is incredible.”

The strikeout record was actually the second DII career mark Perryman has captured this season. Last season, Perryman threw an unbelievable six perfect games. A few weeks ago, Perryman tossed the ninth perfect game of her career, tops in DII and tied for the most across all divisions with legendary pitcher Cat Osterman of Texas. 

“I got into the fourth inning,” Perryman recollected, “and I started shaking and pacing in the dugout. Everyone was looking at me like I was crazy. I said to myself, ‘you’ve been here before, you’ve done this before, just relax and throw hard.’

“I started crying after the game. Cat Osterman — I looked up to her since I was little. To tie something she’s done is incredible.”

The name Perryman has become a hot commodity for UMSL. The GLVC reigning Freshman of the Year happens to be Jennah Perryman, Hannah’s younger sister. Jennah has been a prolific part of the offense since coming to the Tritons, currently sitting with a .300 career batting average and 23 career home runs through her first 96 games.

“It’s awesome,” Perryman said of the opportunity to play alongside her sister. “She is my best friend, my roommate, my go-to person. Having that rock on the field for emotions, she can calm me down or help me with my mechanics. There’s just nothing like playing with your sister. Especially with her being so good.”

Hannah Perryman is en route to set career bests in just about every category, including setting another record in career strikeouts per game. Her 32 wins already top her former career best by two, and both of her complete games and shutouts are already the best in her career. She needs a mere 23 strikeouts to top her single-season best of 408 set in 2014, and her 0.92 ERA is nearly 0.30 better than her previous mark.

“I’m throwing more games this year,” Perryman said of her newfound comfort level in the circle. “Throwing back-to-back double headers, that’s the big difference. I loved my team last year, we were one of the best in the country, but this year we seem to be closer and seem to have a bit more of a bond. I feel like that really helps as well, going out there every game knowing that my team is behind me and we are going to score some runs.”

While Perryman may have come into this season with personal goals of records and outdoing her already seller career stats, her focus has always been on taking her team to the next level. While the past two seasons have ended in the Super Regional, or what Perryman referred to as their kryptonite, she would love to see this team rise to the next level and be part of the first UMSL team to make the finals.

“It would mean everything,” Perryman said. “It’s our last step. We have a lot more to do before that. But we have a lot of younger girls who were sitting on the bench at Super Regionals last year. We lost seven seniors last year, to go a step further this year would be absolutely amazing.”

Lubbock Christian crowns their perfect season 

The DII Women’s Basketball Championship was destined to be a spectacular game. Lubbock Christian came into the game behind an undefeated record in their first year of eligibility for the NCAA postseason. On the other side of the court sat Alaska-Anchorage, the team that reeled off a DII record 38-win season. 

The two teams would collide in Indianapolis the day before the DI Women’s National Championship would be played between Syracuse and UConn. They would share the stage with the DIII Women’s Championship as well. And quite the stage it was.

“Oh my gosh,” LCU senior point guard Nicole Hampton said. “It’s indescribable. I’ve never played in an arena that big with so many LCU fans and college basketball fans in general. Walking out there for the first time literally gave chills. I’m very thankful, not many people get to play in a championship game in that atmosphere.”

The Lady Chaps would leave Indianapolis the same way they entered: without a loss.

“I can not believe that we are undefeated, it blows my mind,” Hampton said. “We had a lot of good opponents to overcome. To be undefeated really shows the character, heart and endurance of this team. A National Championship is what every girl dreams of, being undefeated is that cherry on top.”

LCU defeated UAA 78-73. The Lady Chaps became the first team in DII history to capture a National Championship in their first year of eligibility in transferring from the NAIA.  

“It’s so rare to have a goal like this and actually get to this point,” LCU head coach Steve Gomez said. “At the start of the year, we met in a cemetery for our first team meeting, just to remember that this game is great, but it’s temporary. Let’s just be as good as we can. What a great moment, though. It’s a great accomplishment, but we want to keep it in perspective and be thankful.”

Red-shirt seniors Nicole Hampton and Kelsey Hoppel led the way. Hoppel saved her best for last, scoring a season-high 27 points in the contest. Hampton had a remarkable performance, nearly putting in a quadruple-double in her farewell performance. She finished the day with 22 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists and 7 steals. 

“Kelsey just came in clutch like she always does,” Hampton said. “She makes the team look great when she’s focused in and has that confidence. 

I definitely don’t know any of my stats during the game. I didn’t even realize it until the press conference when someone told me how close I was to getting it. It’s really cool, but the big picture was the National Championship and my team. They make me look better than I am.”

“There’s moments of elation and moments of sorrow as I realize that this is it,” Gomez said of watching his two red-shirt seniors final game. “They both came to win the game, they didn’t simply come to compete. They came to do whatever it took to win. It could have been easy to tighten up or play careful, but both of them brought the best that they’ve had. It was great to see them lead this team and set a good example to follow next year.”

UAA would not go out without a fight. When LCU looked like they could put the game away late in the fourth with the score sitting at 71-57, the Seawolves came fighting back. Fueled by three pointers and a few key free throws, UAA cut the lead to four, until a Hampton field goal with forty ticks left on the clock all but ended their chances of a comeback.

As she did all season, Megan Mullings led UAA, putting up a double-double by scoring 23 points and ripping down 12 rebounds. 

LCU becomes the third DII team to finish the season undefeated, defeating the last team do so (Bentley) in the semifinals. It could have been easy for this team to lose focus and let their egos get the better of them as they reeled off 20-point win after 20-point win in the regular season. That’s not what this team was ever about, however. Gomez has kept them humble and after several years of waiting to finally compete in the NCAA postseason, he kept them appreciative of every minute they were able to play basketball. 

“We hope we can build more than just a basketball program,” Gomez said. “We want kids that are going to fit. We don’t want to attract only players, but attract great people that want to be in our environment and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”