Lisa Fernandez wasn’t just one of the world’s best softball players ever. She was one of the world’s best female athletes ever, in any sport.
“I have never met a coach or a player who could see the game before the game developed quite like Lisa can,” former UCLA softball coach Sue Enquist said. “She had a coach’s curiosity even as a freshman. She could feel the momentum shift; she could pick up on an opponent’s signals or pitches. I knew as a coach we were going to capitalize on this ability. She is an absolute engineer of the game.”
A standout pitcher and batter, Fernandez dominated at every phase of her career.
As an Olympian, she led the United States to three consecutive gold medals, compiling a 7-1 record with a 0.36 earned run average as a pitcher, and batted .302 with 15 runs batted in. Fernandez set Olympic records for most strikeouts by a pitcher in a single game (25, at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games) and highest batting average for an Olympic Games (.545 at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games).
Not too shabby for a player who as a youngster was often told that she wasn’t tall enough and didn’t have long enough arms to become an elite pitcher. Instead, Fernandez developed into one of the best to ever take the softball diamond.
A four-time first-team All-American at UCLA, Fernandez led the Bruins to two national championships and two runner-up finishes from 1990 to 1993. As a collegian, she was 93-7 with a 0.52 ERA as a pitcher, and batted .381 with 128 RBI as a batter.
“I always wonder whether I’ve had an impact on this sport or not,” she said in 1993 as a UCLA senior. “But then I go into a restaurant or I’m at the mall, and somebody says, ‘Aren’t you that softball player?‘ Then I know I have.”