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Lions' Pierannunzi aims for perfect ending to high school career

Sam Pierannunzi's gut instinct is perfection.

If she doesn't do something just right --in the classroom, in sports or otherwise -- it bothers her. Nobody needs to scold her about any mistakes because she's her own toughest critic.

But her new goal is not being so hard on herself.

"My biggest downfall right now is that I'm a perfectionist," the Peachtree Ridge senior softball standout said. "It's not that I don't have a good attitude. I just expect so much out of myself. I'm my own worst enemy. I beat myself up more than I should. I'm working on it."

One hobby has helped that quest.

Almost two years ago, Pierannunzi heard a Taylor Swift song and wanted to play it on the guitar. Her family had an old guitar in the house, so she tuned it with the help of an iPhone app.

More iPhone apps taught her how to play. She's still no Jimi Hendrix, but she is getting better.

"I just tell myself, 'I'm new, so I'm not going to (play the guitar) perfectly,'" said Pierannunzi, who has a near-perfect 3.8 GPA in the classroom. "It's something I enjoy a lot and it's something I'm excited to continue. It's a cool way to get away from everything. Softball's so crazy. It's such a crazy sport. There are so many crazy people that play softball.

"On top of that, school, the whole social teenage girl, work. Sometimes it's just nice to sit in my room and play the guitar for a few minutes."

The other activity that chips away at her perfectionist nature is what she does best, softball.

Pierannunzi is one of the state's best players, a Georgia Tech commitment who has fared well in both travel and high school softball. But for every big hit, there is a strikeout. For every defensive gem, there's an error. Softball, like any sport, can be humbling, even to the best.

"It's so mental that I think it's been really good for me," Pierannunzi said. "I'm a big perfectionist and softball is more failure than not. I have to learn to accept the fact that I'm not always going to succeed. I'm going to fail sometimes. That's a good challenge for me."

The good news for Peachtree Ridge's softball team --she succeeds quite a bit, too.

Pierannunzi, a starter since her freshman season, hit .402 as a junior with 35 RBIs. They were career-high numbers and showed the next phase in her transition from slapper to power hitter.

She hit .399 as a freshman and .398 as a sophomore, but had just 11 extra-base hits in that span. She had 19 extra-base hits, nine triples and 10 doubles, last season.

"She was a slapper when she first came up, but she can drive the ball now," Peachtree Ridge head coach Bubba Wilson said. "That's what really got her to Tech, her power. She's a pretty strong girl. She hit two or three out over those (outfield) trees to the opposite field the other day. Her power continues to develop. From when she got here as a slapper, it's a little bit more scary when she's up there now."

Pierannunzi described her hitting for years as "terrible," in part because she hadn't hit her growth spurt and was one of the shortest players on the field. Her coaches turned her into a slapper to get her speed onto the basepaths, and because she didn't frighten any defenses with her traditional hitting.

But then she began to grow to her current height of 5-foot-11 and also got stronger. She was still fast, but didn't have the top-line speed to be a college-level slapper. With input from Ashlye Washington, her coach at The Pitcher's Mound, she decided it was time to swing away again.

"I still slap. That's still part of my game," said Pierannunzi, whose older brothers Kevin (football) and Michael (baseball) also played at Peachtree Ridge. "I don't want to take that out because you want to have the most options possible. But now I've practiced more than I've ever practiced in my whole life and it's starting to pay off. I'm starting to become a legit power hitter. It's fun. It's cool because my freshman year, it was good for me to hit it to the (infield) dirt."

Throughout the swing changes, Pierannunzi kept producing. She earned first-team all-county and all-region honors the past three seasons and drew plenty of recruiting interest in travel softball.

She eventually committed to Tech, where she hopes to major in biomedical engineering with a possible minor or double-major in Spanish.

Before she begins college, she has high school goals. One in particular would make her senior season, well, perfect.

"I've never been to Columbus (for state)," Pierannunzi said. "Everybody wants to win state, but you have to be realistic. I don't necessarily think we couldn't win state, but I definitely think this is a group of girls that can make it to Columbus. That's our goal. All of us really want to go to Columbus."