Perrine commits to Western Carolina

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — Sarah Perrine’s college choice wasn’t decided by playing time or majors or facilities or coaches or teammates.
It was mostly a river.
Perrine, West Rowan’s senior shortstop, was recruited by a stack of colleges ranging in size from Virginia Tech to Catawba, but she committed verbally to Western Carolina shortly after touring the town of Cullowhee and WCU’s campus.
“My coaches always told me that whenever I visited the right place I would know it in my heart,” Perrine said. “They were right. I thought Cullowhee was the greatest town ever.”
It was love at first sight for Perrine as soon as she glimpsed the Tuckasegee River. Locals spell the scenic body of water three different ways, but all agree the Cherokees named it for the turtles found there.
Perrine also lost a piece of her heart to the Great Smoky Mountains that overlook the comfortable river valley in which Cullowhee lies.
The Catamounts’ almost-new softball diamond was icing on the cake. The mountains rise majestically beyond the outfield fence and a creek runs past right field.
“I guess it’s because all my family is from West Virginia,” Perrine said. “The mountains, the river going right through the town. It reminded me of West Virginia.”
Perrine is a three-time all-county player. Assuming she stays healthy this spring, she’ll make it four straight.
Besides being a highly recruitable ‘A’ student, she’s blessed with physical ability that includes good speed, great baserunning instincts and fine arm strength — all things coaches can’t teach.
“Sarah really is talented, and I don’t think Western Carolina realizes how lucky they are yet,” said Elizabeth Clarke, Perrine’s high school coach the past three seasons. “Speed-wise and versatility-wise, she’s special. She could play shortstop in college, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see her in the outfield. She could be a center fielder. She could play about anywhere.”
Perrine is at home at shortstop, mostly because that’s where she’s usually played, but on a travel-ball team loaded with infielders and short on outfielders, she gave center field a whirl.
“I like center field, and I feel like I’ve got the range and speed to play there,” Perrine said. “But I also feel like I was born to play shortstop.”
Perrine is experienced.
Travel ball has taken her as far away as California to compete against the country’s best. It was those long trips and the homesickness that rode along that convinced her she wanted to pick a college close by.
Perrine has been scouted for years, so she expected to have the recruiting process in the rearview mirror after the November early signing period. That didn’t happen.
“I knew was going somewhere, but I was starting to stress, being a senior and still not knowing exactly where,” Perrine said. “I was close to taking some other offers when Western called me and wanted me to visit. Western was a school that had watched me for a long time, but then they had a coaching change. That had kind of put us at an awkward stage.”
Back in September, Western elevated assistant Jim Clift to the head-coaching position. Clift is not the standard assistant. He was a police officer in California and a S.W.A.T. team guy for 23 years in San Diego before he got into coaching full-time.
“I went down to visit and when I talked to the coaches and saw the school and the town, I was ready to accept if they offered,” Perrine said. “I was glad they offered.”
Perrine expects to sign in April. Erin Foster, a West Rowan grad, is the likely starter in center field for the Catamounts this season. It’s conceivable Perrine could be her replacement in 2013.
“Now that would be pretty ironic,” Perrine said.
Clarke, who coached West to the 3A state tournament in 2005, has stepped down, because it’s time for her to coach her own kids, but she’s thrilled Perrine can concentrate on her senior season without worrying about which scouts from which schools are in the bleachers.
“I’m happy for her because it’s a lot of stress off ,” Clarke said. “I’ll still be out there watching and supporting her. I believe she can do great things.”
Perrine will miss Clarke, but she’s also looking forward to playing for new coach Todd McNeely, who is still busy with basketball.
“I’ve got goals for myself and for my team, but all I can do is go out and play as hard as I can,” Perrine said. “A lot depends on our pitching, but I think we can be good.”