The hard-throwing right-hander responsible for 22 saves in his first three years as a Liberty University relief pitcher might be a starter at some point this season.
Hardly the most seamless of baseball transitions, though not a big deal to Ashton Perritt.
“It’s different, but in the end you just have to get the next batter out,” said Perritt, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound Whiteland Community High School product who starred on football fields and baseball diamonds alike for the Warriors.
“I did have one start my sophomore year (at Liberty), but it came after I had already closed a game earlier in the day.”
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That’s Perritt for you — Mr. Versatility.
Now just like before.
Difficult as it might be for some Whiteland fans to process, Perritt is a college senior. An exercise science major who has touched three bases as a Division I baseball player and is motoring full-speed in the direction of home plate.
Selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 17th round of the 2014 MLB draft, Perritt, along with Liberty teammate Alex Close (Kansas City Royals, 27th round), chose to return for what both hope are memorable senior seasons.
“I don’t really have any regrets. My time will come, so I’m happy with my decision,” said Perritt, who last season led a 41-18 Flames team in saves (12) and stolen bases (18) while batting .279 with 39 runs scored and 24 RBI.
“After going through the whole process I don’t think I was ready. I just believe God had a plan for me, and it wasn’t all about the draft. I love it here. It’s going to be hard to leave.”
This wasn’t so much the case during Perritt’s freshman school year (2011-12).
As the lone Indiana representative on a 32-man roster that included nine players from Virginia, seven from the state of Washington and five from California, Perritt sensed something as basic as geography had made him an outcast.
Liberty University is a private Christian school located in Lynchburg, Virginia, but draws student-athletes from all over the United States (there were 11 different states represented on the baseball roster Perritt’s freshman season and are 14 this spring).
“His freshman year was hard. There are at least 20 all-state athletes trying out, and he’s just another kid. Ashton wasn’t particularly big (6-3, 194), so he kind of felt like an oddball. But once he got down there and stayed in the groove of it, he grew through that,” said Dan Perritt, Ashton’s father.
“As a sophomore Ashton took a leadership role but still felt a little bit odd because he wasn’t from Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina.”
It was around this time university president Jerry Falwell Jr. — son of the late Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University — sought out the younger Perritt on campus.
“He walked up to Ashton one day and said, ‘You’re doing a great job of representing the baseball program and Liberty University,’” Dan Perritt said. “Another time he came off the (baseball) field and said to my wife (Robin) and I, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Perritt, it’s great you brought your son to Liberty University. He’s such a blessing to us.’”
Named a third-team All-American by Louisville Slugger, Perritt is commonly projected to be selected at some point in the first 10 rounds of this year’s MLB draft.
Liberty recently dropped from No. 23 to 30th in the Division I baseball poll. The Flames are 2-1 entering today’s noon start against Michigan at the Keith LeClair Classic, hosted by East Carolina University.
Perritt, who leads off for coach Jim Toman’s squad whether he’s playing center field or pitching, is 4 of 14 at the plate this season. He delivered two base hits — one being a second-inning grand slam home run — and five RBI in Liberty’s 9-1 victory against Georgia State on Valentine’s Day.
And though it took until Perritt was a senior, he finally has a teammate from Indiana, freshman catcher Isaac Crafton, who hails from Jeffersonville.
“Ashton came in so raw because he was more of a football player, but he’s come a long way since high school,” said Toman, who is in his eighth season as the Liberty coach with a 266-156 record and back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths to show for it.
“He’s pretty much just a freak athlete who’s been blessed with great speed and a strong arm,” Toman added. “Ashton has had a wonderful career so far and been a big part of our success.”
THE PERRITT FILE
Here is a small sampling of Ashton Perritt’s highlights from his first three seasons as a Liberty University baseball player:
• 2013 Big South Tournament MVP
• Hit a home run and struck out five Radford University batters in 2013 Big South Championship Game
• Recorded a team-leading 18 steals in 2014
• Listed in the College Top 100 (No. 98) by Baseball America in 2014
• Finished junior season second on Liberty career saves list with 22
• Selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 17th round of the 2014 MLB draft