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Breakout Season a Long Time Coming for Pitt Senior Connor Perry

Breakout Season a Long Time Coming for Pitt Senior Connor Perry

PITTSBURGH — When former Norwin outfielder Connor Perry transferred to a Division I school after spending his first two collegiate seasons at the Division II and junior college level, he transferred back home, to play at Pitt.

But his first season at the Division I level didn’t exactly make for a happy homecoming.

In his first two seasons, at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa., Perry had done a little bit of everything at the plate. Over 50 games, he hit .357, slugged five home runs, drove in 35 runs and stole 35 bases.

In 48 games of his junior year at Pitt, Perry didn’t show a lot of the same promise. He hit .191, had just eight extra-base hits and no home runs, drove in nine runs and stole three bases.

When Pitt went to Florida for four games to start its 2019 season, Perry started on the bench for the first two games before rotating into the lineup.

A 3 for 5 game against Milwaukee earned him some goodwill, as did a 3 for 4 game against Bucknell the following weekend that sparked a five-game hitting streak. In those five games, he went 9 for 20, and it was clear that he’d re-discovered the stroke that led him to gaudy numbers at the JUCO level.

When the scheduled toughened and conference play began, Perry didn’t suffer at the hands of more talented pitchers. In fact, he added home-run power at an unprecedented level.

He had two home runs on the season in 19 games when he stepped into the batter’s box to lead off the game when Pitt faced Virginia on March 22.

Facing 6-foot-8 junior Noah Murdock, Perry sent a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right field to start the game.

In the fifth inning, he did it again.

Perry hit a third home run in that series against Virginia, three more the following weekend against Miami and now has 10 to lead the Panthers and tied for eight in the conference.

It’s been quite a change from his first season with the Panthers.

“I think the biggest thing is just confidence,” Perry said. “The coaches established an approach in us that we’ve been following and it’s been really working for me. We have a lot of other hitters that are doing really well, so I’m getting a lot of good pitches to hit, and getting a lot of fastballs, which helps a lot.”

His power surge has come without any drop-off in on-base ability, either. He’s sporting a .298 batting average and a .989 OPS.

“I always had power my whole life,” Perry said. “That was kind of like my secret weapon, I guess. My junior college, I had a good amount of power numbers. Last year, I just didn’t play very well to begin with, so the power wasn’t showing. … When put good at-bats together and put the barrel to the baseball it’s going to go a long way. I’m not really worried about power.”

For a player that was once cut from his Division III team and was humbled by his introduction to the ACC, the feeling of going out as a senior with his finest performance has been an awfully satisfying one. He’s hoping that leads to a legacy at Pitt.

“The way my career ended up being, I want to be someone the younger guys can look up to,” Perry said. “Letting them see it and showing them this can happen.”

FOUL TIPS

Perry and the Panthers will host Presbyterian in a three-game series this weekend, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday night and a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday. … Pitt is 4-0 all time against the Blue Hose. … RHP Derek West will start for Pitt on Friday. … OF Ron Washington, Jr. has a 37-game reached base streak, the second-longest current streak in the ACC. … Pitt will host Maryland Eastern-Shore on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to ACC play with a three-game series at Florida State next Friday. … Pitt (4-17) is three games behind Boston College and Virginia Tech (7-14) for the final spot in the ACC Tournament. The Hokies are at Miami this weekend, while the Eagles host Duke.

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