November 27, 1981 |
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|College team||UCLA Bruins|
|Competitor for United States|
|Gold||2004 Athens||Team Competition|
|Silver||Beijing 2008||Team Competition|
Natasha Watley (born November 27, 1981) is an American, former collegiate 4-time First Team All-American, left-handed hitting softball player for the UCLA Bruins and USA Softball Women’s National Team originally from Irvine, California. She plays the position of shortstop and first base, and helped the Bruins win a national championship, the gold medal for softball at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and the silver for the Beijing Olympics. She is the first African-American female to play on the USA Softball team in the Olympics. She owns numerous records for the Bruins and is one of select players to bat at least .400 with 300 hits, 200 runs and 100 stolen bases.
Watley was born in Irvine, California to parents Edwin and Carolyn Watley. Watley attended Woodbridge High School where she was named second team Louisville Slugger All-American in her junior and senior years. She hit over .445 in her last three seasons in addition to stealing 20+ bases each season.
On May 13, Watley was a perfect 4/4 with 2 RBIs and a double against the Oregon Ducks for a career high in single game hits. On May 18, she stole a record 4 bases to break another school record vs. the Canisius Golden Griffins.
Watley and the Bruins made it into the Women's College World Series finals vs. the Oklahoma Sooners. Watley was perfect against Jennifer Stewart, going 3/3 and scoring the only run in the Bruins eventual 3–1 defeat on May 29.
Watley repeated all-season honors for a second straight year. She set school records with 75 runs and 56 stolen bases, while her season total hits were second all-time.
Beginning March 2 through April 29, 2001, she managed a 32-consecutive-game hit streak, which is the fifth longest in NCAA history. The streak stretched to 36 games overall beginning on February 17; the Bruins had a week off prior to April 29. In that span, Watley batted .426 (55/129) with 14 RBI, a home run, three triples and doubles each.
The streak of three First Team All-American and All Pac-10 honors continued as the junior also broke the school record for hits in a season (112), which also led the NCAA Division I. Her triples and stolen bases were second best all-time, while her career-best .485 average ranked 4th (5th all-time) at UCLA.
Notching her second-longest streak, Watley began a 29-consecutive-game hit streak on February 1 until March 9. Watley hit .543 (56/103) and had 24 RBIs, two home runs, three triples and 7 doubles. She also had a slugging percentage of .747% and overall her streak was 6th best for the NCAA.
Watley was named to the WCWS All-Tournament Team, hitting over .450 for the Bruins.
Again earning a place on the All-American team, she added the 2003 Pac-10 "Player of The Year" and the Honda Broderick Cup for "Best Collegiate Female Athlete" and "Best Collegiate Softball Player." Watley ranked top-10 in school season categories of batting average, hits, on-base percentage and stolen bases.
From January 31 to February 31, she had her third-longest hit streak at 19 consecutive games. She hit .500 (30/60) with 21 RBIs, two home runs, a triple and 4 doubles. On April 30, Watley batted in a career-high 5 RBIs on two home runs to defeat the Washington Huskies.
At the year's WCWS, Watley was again named to the All-Tournament Team, batting over .400 with 3 RBIs and slugging over .550%. The Bruins made it into their third finale with Watley and claimed the no-hit win over Kelly Anderson and the California Golden Bears on May 26. Watley went 2/5 with a triple.
In her four years as a starter for the Bruins, she finished tops in career hits, triples, runs and stolen bases. She ranked second in career batting average (.450) and top-10 in doubles, slugging and on-base percentages. Watley holds the single-season record for hits (112) and is currently ranked fourth in Pac-10 history. Watley is listed seventh on the all-time NCAA record books with 115 hits in a single season. She was also the first UCLA Bruin to have two 100+ hit seasons.
Watley will be inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame on October 11, 2014.
In the summer of 2001, Watley played for the USA Red Team helping them win the US Cup and place third at the Canada Cup. She was named "Most Inspirational Player" at the Canada Cup in addition to being named to the All-Tournament Team. In 2002, she was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Canada Cup and the 2002 ISF World Championship tournaments where she also earned Most Valuable Player. In 2003, Watley was also awarded a gold medal for her performance at the Pan American Games.
In preparation for the 2004 Olympics, Watley hit over .450 on the Aiming For Athens tour to help maintain Team USA's perfect record in Olympic tours. At the Games on August 14, Watley went a perfect 4/4 with a double and triple vs. Italy. She assisted Team USA softball to their third consecutive gold medal at the Athens Olympic Games defeating Australia 5-1, the only run allowed in the entire tournament, to earn her first gold medal on August 23. Watley led the team in at-bats, hits, stolen bases and was third on the team with a .400 batting average. She also broke the Olympic record for stolen bases with five in nine games.
In 2008 on the Bound 4 Beijing Tour, Watley hit over .450 once again. She led the tour in at-bats, triples and stolen bases. Watley opened the Games smacking a two-run home run in a run-rule victory over Venezuela. Watley ended the Games in the gold medal contest on August 21, Watley had a hit in Team USA's 3-1 upset by Yukiko Ueno and Team Japan to earn Silver. Watley hit .321 and led the team in at-bats and stolen bases.
Watley played her first season professionally with the New York/New Jersey Juggernaut in the National Pro Fastpitch league in 2005. In her rookie season, Watley led the Nauts in batting with a .374 average and tallied 37 hits as the leadoff hitter to be named an NPF All-Star. In 2006, Watley played for the Philadelphia Force in limited action (30 at-bats) due to Team USA duities.
Today Watley plays for the USSSA Pride based out of Kissimmee, Florida. In the 2010 season, Watley received her second All-NPF Team honor and her team made it into the Cowles Cup Championship on August 29 vs. the Chicago Bandits. Watley hit a solo home run in a 3/4 performance against pitchers Kristina Thorson, Nikki Nemitz and Jessica Sallinger to win the title. For the 2011 season, she led the league in average at .459 and was able to get a rematch shot at defending her team's title on August 24. The Pride lost but Watley had two hits and batted in two of three runs off ace Monica Abbott, pitching for the Bandits.
In 2012, Watley was second overall in batting average and had a rematch in the Cowles Cup Championship with the Chicago Bandits and Monica Abbott. They lost again on August 25 at a 2-1 score, but Watley managed a hit in the effort. For the 2013 season championship, Watley earned the Cowles Cup Championship and had a hit in the finale. Watley set a league record for hits in 2011 that still stands. She also holds the career batting crown for playing multiple season and ranks third in stolen bases.
NPF New York Juggernauts, Philadelphia Force & USSSA Pride
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