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Ms. Perfect

GSU pitcher Purvis rewriting the record books

Ms. Perfect

Ms. Perfect

Georgia Southern pitcher Sarah Purvis...


    There are only 10 pitchers in the history of NCAA softball with more career perfect games than Georgia Southern’s Sarah Purvis.
    And she’s not done yet.
    Halfway through her senior season, Purvis has thrown five no hitters, of which three were perfect games. She has won back to back Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year awards and is on pace to win another. The Eagles (24-11, 8-1 SoCon) have won the conference each of the last two years, too.
    The program took another step forward in 2013, winning a game at the NCAA tournament in the Gainesville, Fla., region. As a matter of fact, Purvis threw her second perfect game there, against Hampton on May 18.
    For Purvis, it’s all about the postseason.
    “Sarah came to Georgia Southern wanting to get us to the World Series,” said GSU coach Annie Smith, who has led the Eagles to SoCon titles and NCAA tournament appearances in each of her first two seasons with the program.
    When Smith came to the program after the 2011 season, Purvis was laser focused on improving after a rough freshman campaign. Purvis went 1-2 in three starts in 2011. She gave up seven home runs in 22.1 innings pitched.
    “I didn’t have a good freshman year, and I’ve never had a year like that before in my life,” Purvis said. “I went home in the summer and I worked my butt off. I told myself I was never, ever going to have a season like that again.”
    She was right.
    Purvis morphed from a role player to a dominant starter, earning her first SoCon Pitcher of the Year award in 2012. Teams went from hitting .311 against Purvis in 2011 to .168 in 2012. She won 23 games and struck out a program-record 253 batters in 220.1 innings. Her earned run average dropped from 5.64 to 1.56.
    She threw her first no hitter as a sophomore, too, against LaSalle on March 5, 2012.
    Smith ingrained into Purvis, and the Eagles, that they are good enough to beat anybody.
    “When I got here in August 2011, people were worried about beating Chattanooga,” Smith said. “I’m not worried about beating Chatt. I’m worried about beating Tennessee. You can’t limit yourself. If you want to get to the World Series, you’ve got to play the best teams. The jersey should never beat you.”
    Purvis used to prefer playing in the infield and hitting — she still takes batting practice with the team — but it was her mother who saw her potential in the circle.
    “When I was a kid I actually didn’t want to be a pitcher, I wanted to be a shortstop, but that changed real quick,” Purvis said. “I had some strength, and my mom said, ‘Why don’t you just try it?’”
    Purvis discovered she got to be in charge when she was pitching.
    “Ever since then,” she added, “being in control of the whole game, I live for that. I love that.”
    Pitching, Smith says, is the most important key to winning, and the Eagles have more than jnust the overpowering arm of Purvis. Brooke Red, Marla Thompson and Allie Miles combone to form perhaps the moost dominant staff in mid-major softball.
    “When you have good pitching you’ve always got a chance,” Smith said. “The game’s won in the circle. It’s about pitching. When the pitchers throw well, life’s a lot easier.”
    Purvis has tossed 23 shutouts in her career.
    “If I throw a shutout,” she smiled, “we’re not losing.”
    Pitchers are notoriously superstitious, and Purvis is no different, especially when it comes to throwing a no hitter.
    “It’s an unspoken rule. Don’t talk about it,” she said. “Nobody can talk about it. Some people on the team are like, ‘Oh, I don’t believe in that.’ Well I do.”
    In a way, Purvis isn’t thinking about it when she’s in the middle of a no-no. That’s because it’s always the goal.
    “I usually don’t think about it because when I go into a game, I think ‘no hitter’ no matter what,” Purvis said. “I just don’t want you to touch the ball. But I always think about it around the fifth or sixth inning. So I’ll start thinking, ‘Don’t worry about hits, just get the shutout.”
    Purvis is nearing the end of a stellar college career at GSU, and she’s already been invited to get some looks playing professionally overseas.
    She’s not sure where she’ll end up, but she knows one thing for sure.
    “I just want to keep playing until my body says I can’t anymore,” she said.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-4908.

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