Perry’s 500th win was business as usual

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The Illini are a combined 96-53 since Perry took over the program.

By Brian Binz, Staff Writer

Illinois softball head coach Tyra Perry isn’t one to sing her own praises, and when she passed 500 career wins, it was no exception.

“It means I’ve had really good assistants and good players over the years,” Perry said. “Winning is tough, to have one win is a blessing, to have 500 is even more of a blessing.”

Perry picked up her 500th   win on March 17 in a 5-3 win against Cal Poly, pushing Illinois’ record to 15-9 at that point.

Illinois has since won five of its last six, including a series win in its Big Ten opener against Purdue last weekend. The team is currently on pace for its third straight 30-win season under Perry’s watch.

Perry’s arrival in 2016 marked a shift for the Illinois softball program, which went 36-23 in its first winning season since 2012 and piled up the most wins since the 2010 team that went 45-8.

Victories aren’t just coming from a difference in strategy, but from a change in the approach, according to senior infielder Leigh Farina, who was a sophomore when Perry was brought in to be the head coach.

“She definitely brought in a different mentality,” Farina said. “Everything we do is with hustle and heart, and buying into that has been a game-changer for us.”

No real secret exists to Perry’s success, she said. According to Perry, she has gotten this far by showing up every day ready to work hard and give her best.

Perry came to Illinois with 409 wins already, leading similar surges at Western Kentucky and Ball State, where she won 60 percent of her games. Even though she has spent a relatively short time in Champaign, the change has given Perry new memories.

“Having the opportunity to coach players like Allie Bauch, Nicole Evans, Danielle Trezzo, Brianna Wonderly,” Perry said, “the caliber of athlete that I’ve gotten to coach has been wonderful.”

Perry herself was no benchwarmer in her day, transferring to LSU during the first two years of the program’s existence. Perry led the Tigers in home runs and batting average in her two years on the team.

Perry’s Tigers won 102 games in the two years she was there and collected an NCAA regional second-place finish in the program’s first trip into the postseason.

Perry’s past playing career is reflected in the Illini’s intensity. For example, even when the ball isn’t in play, they sprint everywhere they go.

“It sets an intimidation factor and it just looks crisp,” Farina said.

Emily Oestreich felt that intensity when she was looking at schools to play for this year, saying that Perry’s winning history caught the attention of the then-prospective pitcher.

“She’s really tough,” Oestreich said. “She pushes me harder than I’ve ever been pushed. I love her.”

Behind the coaching of Perry, Oestreich has helped soften the departure of Wonderly, who led the Illini in starts and wins on the mound last year. Oestreich has become the ace of the pitching staff and has started the year with an 11-4 record.

Perry preaches consistency, and due to her accomplishments as a player and her growing number of wins, few coaches can practice what they preach like her.

“As soon as you start looking for outcomes and focusing on hitting home runs and all those things, then you’re setting yourself up for failure,” Perry said. “My most consistent teams have been the most successful teams.”

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