Sports

The Best Olympic Softball Players of All Time

Softball may not be the most prolific event at the Summer Olympics, with a number of track-and-field, swimming, and gymnastics competitions overshadowing it. In fact, it’s only been a medal sport four times. First a part of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, softball took place at each subsequent Olympics through the 2008 games in Beijing.

After not being an Olympics sport in 2012 or 2016, softball will return in 2020. With the sport’s small sample size in mind, here are the best Olympic softball players. (As the U.S. and Australia are the only two nations to medal all four times, this list is made up of women from those two nations.)

Laura Berg, USA

Laura Berg is the only American softball player to medal in all four Olympics where the sport was part of the competition. With Team USA, Berg earned gold in each of the first three softball competitions, then got a silver medal in 2008 when Japan won the tournament.

Berg, who retired following the 2008 Olympics, hit .362 in 290 at-bats in her four Olympic appearances. She hit two home runs — both in 2004 — with 34 RBI and five steals in her Olympic career. Since 2013, Berg has coached the Oregon State softball team, which has made the NCAA Regional four times under her leadership.

Lisa Fernandez, USA

The California native played for Team USA in 1996, 2000, and 2004; she was an alternate in 2008 but didn’t play. Lisa Fernandez was a dual-threat at both pitcher and third base. On the mound, she went 7-1 in her Olympic career in 11 appearances, including 10 starts. The UCLA alum had an impressive 0.37 ERA and 0.36 WHIP in 74.2 innings, which included seven complete games, five shutouts, and a save.

Fernandez also struck out 93 batters. As a hitter, she appeared in 27 games, hitting .302 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 76 at-bats. Currently, Fernandez is an assistant coach for the women’s softball team at her alma mater.

Dot Richardson, USA

Dot Richardson was part of Team USA’s gold medal-winning teams in 1996 and 2000. She was a big part of the ’96 team, hitting .273 with seven RBI and nine runs scored. Most importantly, the softball star hit the game-winning home run against China in the gold medal game that year, giving her country the first-ever softball gold medal at the Summer Olympics.

Richardson has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and health. She is currently a physician in addition to being the head coach of Liberty University’s softball team, a role she’s held since 2014.

Melanie Roche, Australia

Melanie Roche played for all four Australian Olympic softball teams, earning a silver medal and three bronze in the process. The Oklahoma State alum is a pitcher who posted a 0.00 ERA at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Roche is just one of four Australians — including teammates Natalie Ward and Tanya Harding — to win four Olympic medals. The 48-year-old continues to play softball professionally in Japan.

Tanya Harding, Australia

Another pitcher for Australia, Tanya Harding was at the top of her game for a long time — having spent nearly two decades ranked in the world’s top five softball pitchers. Also an Oklahoma State alum, Harding has won countless international awards in addition to her four Olympic medals.