Fernandez plays what could be her final game for U.S. softball
LOS ANGELES -- On the same mound where she starred in college, Lisa Fernandez played what could be her final game for U.S. softball.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist, who was left off the powerful U.S. team's roster for the Beijing Games this summer, allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings Tuesday night to lead the national team to an 8-2 victory over UCLA, her alma mater and where she now coaches.
Fernandez didn't make the final cut when U.S. coach Mike Candrea named his 15-player roster in March. She was named an alternate and could be called upon if one of the U.S. pitchers gets hurt.
"Emotionally, for me this was my last game," she said. "Physically, I'm still going to prepare just in case. I don't know what the future is going to hold. I don't know if I'm going to get the ball again."
Fernandez allowed seven hits, two earned runs and one walk, while striking out six against UCLA.
She exchanged teary-eyed hugs with her teammates and the Bruins after the game, and placed her cleats in the pitching circle as a way of saying goodbye and thank you to the fans.
"This was my opportunity to say goodbye the way I would have liked to have done," she said. "If I was going to have my career end, I wanted it to be here."
Caitlin Lowe, Jessica Mendoza, Crystl Bustos and Andrea Duran, another former Bruins players, homered for team USA.
Julie Burney hit a two-run homer for UCLA.
"To have those kids in the other dugout was difficult because I coached them and I wanted them to do well," Fernandez said.
The 37-year-old Fernandez is one of softball's greatest players. She pitched in the gold medal games in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens. U.S. catcher Stacey Nuveman compared Fernandez not making the U.S. roster for Beijing to "Michael Jordan getting cut from the basketball team."
The U.S. (26-1) is about halfway through an exhibition tour leading to the Beijing Games. Fernandez said she plans to continue traveling with the U.S. for the rest of the tour, though she is not scheduled to pitch again.
As far as traveling to Beijing, Fernandez said that is, "Yet to be determined."
"I don't want to communicate on emotion," she said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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