Perkins is focused on making DeSoto better
It's the middle of a softball game. No outs on the scoreboard and there are people on base. That's when junior pitcher Ashley Perkins feels the pressure most.
"If you have one bad pitch, somebody could score," Perkins said.
Obviousdly, Perkins has not crumbled from this so-called pressure. Not many have scored on the hard-throwing Perkins. In fact, she is a big reason the Wildcats are off to another strong start and are poised to make a third straight trip to the Kansas Class 5A tournament.
"My focus is to win and my energy just kind of comes along with it." She said. "When I'm on the mound, I'm just thinking about where that batter's located, the pitch and where to throw it."
She's also looking to become a leader.
In her freshman year, the Cats won a state title. Thanks to some leadership from the upperclassmen, she was made to feel comfortable enough to make a real contribution at the varsity level.
"I want to be a good communicator," she said. "I want to help the younger players improve."
Perkins also wants to dispel a myth that high school softball isn't competitive. There are some ignorant people in the community, she said, who believe softball to be a passive, non-aggressive pastime.
"They think it's not very competitive, like it's just for recreation," Perkins said.
Anyone who has seen Perkins pitch can spot her competitive nature. She wears a game face to the mound. It's a look of concentration focus that can unnerve an opponent. Her game face is a mask that hides her emotion because the pitchers who succeed are the ones who keep their cool under pressure.
"It takes a lot of practice to remain calm," she said. "You have to be really calm if things don't go your way."
The Wildcats' run for another Kaw Valley League title clearly rests squarely on the right arm of Perkins, but she isn't willing to admit that.
"There's no pressure, really," she said. "Everybody has their role, and nobody's really the star."
Coach Randy Keith would appreciate the words from his star pitcher, but if pressed, he would probably disagree. If softball is a game of pitching, Perkins is what separates DeSoto from many of its opponents.
"She's very versatile. She's got a lot of different pitches to work with, so that means she can keep the batters off balance, which is important," Keith said.
Having command of her pitches makes her on of the top pitchers in the Kansas City metro area.
"She has great pitching ability, a lot of speed and control," said sophomore pitcher Kayla Glass, one of the younger pitchers who look up to Perkins. "She can go both games back to back. I'd say that she's the best pitcher we have."