Louisiana Softball Relying On Natalie Fernandez To Set The Table While Flying Under The Radar
UL senior second baseman Natalie Fernandez
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajun softball team had an impressive opening weekend, offensively, in the Louisiana Classics last week, scoring 33 runs in five games.
One of the big reasons for those offensive numbers was the play of second baseman Natalie Fernandez.
The senior from Live Oak High School in Denham Springs was 6-of-18 at the plate, while leading the team with six runs scored.
That .333 average is good, but Fernandez also drew four walks, and currently leads the team with an even more stellar .471 on-base percentage.
If the Cajuns are going to score runs, compete for a conference title, and qualify for yet another NCAA Regional, they're going to have to get similar production out of Fernandez throughout the season, something she has done, quietly, throughout her time in a Louisiana uniform.
Fernandez, as most slap hitters are, has been underrated throughout her career, but she's also been one of the more productive Louisiana players since her freshman season.
Playing second base, third base, and even the outfield in a line-up that featured the big bats of Christi Orgeron, Gabrielle Bridges, Nerissa Myers, and Sarah Draheim, Fernandez hit a .368 as a freshman in 2011, which was fourth on the team. Appearing in 55 games, while starting 29, Fernandez was also third on the team in stolen bases, with 17, while helping the Cajuns to a 51-10 record.
As a sophomore in 2012, Fernandez became the fulltime starter at third base, appearing in every games, starting 58.
Along with Katie Smith, Fernandez was part of a lethal dynamic duo that gave the opposition fits, combining for a .442 average, with 115 runs scored.
On her own, Fernandez hit an impressive .436, second on the team, with 49 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, and a .500 on-base percentage, while being tabbed an All-Louisiana second team selection.
On a team that went 53-6, including a trip to an NCAA Super Regional, Fernandez helped set the tables for the likes of Orgeron, Myers, Draheim, Brianna Cherry, and Matte Haack.
While Fernandez did receive the second team All-Louisiana selection, you can't help but scratch your head and try to figure out why she wasn't honored more after that fantastic campaign. But again, Fernandez has flown under the radar her entire career. All she's done is put up some impressive numbers, while helping the Cajuns win.
Last season, Fernandez slipped a little, hitting a .345, with a .411 on-base percentage. Still, those are numbers most in the country would love to have.
Fernandez also started all 62 games at third base as a junior, extending her streak of consecutive games plays to 121, along with 120 starts.
Coming into this year, one just got the impression that the Cajuns were going to score runs, because Fernandez was going to have a big year, and she's gotten off to a fast start, while making the move to second base.
She's one of two seniors on this year's team, and has been on teams that have been to three-consecutive NCAA Regionals, including back-to-back Super Regionals.
There's no doubt, Fernandez is one of the most overlooked UL players in history. Since the middle of the 2011 season it's been a gimme that she will be in the line-up, and produce, accumulating 177 hits, 137 runs scored, and 41 stolen bases.
Barring injury, Fernandez has a realistic opportunity to finish in the top ten in career games played, starts, hits, and runs scored, in a program that has been blessed with so many great players.
Because she's a slapper, and because she's played alongside multiple All-Americans, Fernandez has been underrated, and overlooked, and quite frankly, that's likely to be the case again this year.
Fernandez is likely to hit around a .400, with an on-base percentage pushing .500, while scoring about 70 runs.
Production, without fanfare. That's Natalie Fernandez.