OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Lehigh senior first baseman Julie Fernandez has been named as one of 30 candidates for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The award encompasses community, classroom, character and competition. A two-year captain for the Mountain Hawks, Fernandez has excelled in all four areas as one of the top hitters and first basemen in the region and as a behavioral neuroscience major with her sights set on medical school.
“We know here at Lehigh just how lucky we are to have Julie, because she’s a great player but she’s a great person and a great leader and has an infectious personality,” said Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “She certainly is very deserving of this recognition and we’re fired up for her and the program.”
Fernandez is the only Patriot League softball student-athlete to be named a candidate, joining an impressive list which features All-Americans, Academic All-Americans and more. The 30 candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one candidate who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.
Lowe’s, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the Senior CLASS Award winners during the 2012 Women’s College World Series, May 31-June 6 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Fernandez has excelled in the classroom, posting a 3.33 grade point average in Lehigh’s rigorous Behavioral Neuroscience program, while minoring in Spanish. A multi-year member of the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, Fernandez has also received numerous Lehigh Faculty Athletics Council Academic Awards for posting semester GPAs of 3.20 or better. Fernandez earned the 2011 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sport Scholar Award (as named by Diverse Issues in Higher Education) while also garnering Lehigh University’s Class of 1904 Scholarship Award. Last spring, Fernandez was named to the inaugural Academic All-Patriot League softball team. She is currently applying to medical schools and aspires to become a pediatrician. She has spent time during the summer shadowing a pediatrician in Santa Monica, Calif., while also participating in research at UCLA Medical Center.
The Moorpark, California native is so well respected by her teammates that she was voted a captain prior to both her junior and senior seasons. Her on-field success did not come without overcoming hardship. As a freshman in 2009, Fernandez was the Patriot League’s Rookie of the Year. In the first inning of Lehigh’s final game of the season, a loss to Florida in the NCAA Gainesville Regional Final, Fernandez tore her ACL in a collision at first base. She not only had to endure the sadness and frustrations of seeing her team’s season come to an end, but also knee surgery and months of rehab. Fernandez persevered through the adversity and was back on the practice field well before the start of her sophomore season. In addition, Fernandez hit a blistering .442 during that sophomore season and was named Patriot League Player of the Year.
In addition to her softball captain duties, Fernandez has been heavily involved in Lehigh’s athletic department, as a Student-Athlete Mentor and as a member of the Lehigh Athletics Leadership Academy. In the Student-Athlete Mentor (SAM) program, Fernandez helped facilitate discussions for the Lehigh P.R.I.D.E. program and served as a resource providing guidance to Lehigh’s freshmen throughout the year. In the Leadership Academy, Fernandez graduated from the Emerging Leaders program, where she learned how to be an effective vocal and leader by example on her team and within the Lehigh community; and the Leadership Legacies program where she learned how to interact with coaches and teammates in order to effectively lead a team as a captain.
Fernandez has been heavily involved in Lehigh’s award-winning community outreach C.O.A.C.H. (Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping) program. She has been part of groups that visited local schools to talk to children about the importance of leadership, responsibility and education.
The C.O.A.C.H. program does numerous presentations to student groups in settings ranging from team meetings to school assemblies to sports banquets. They also run sports clinics with an educational theme, group outings to Lehigh athletic events and more. One special event, which Fernandez and the C.O.A.C.H. program have coordinated, is an annual Adopt-A-Family around the holidays. Each Lehigh Athletics team adopts an underprivileged family; they then raise money throughout the semester to purchase holiday presents for their adopted family. The initiative wraps up with an event where all of Lehigh’s student-athletes present the gifts to their adopted families. Last year, the Mountain Hawks raised nearly $30,000.
In the offseason Fernandez has volunteered her time as a hitting instructor for girls ages 14-18, teaching hitting technique through practice, drills and mental preparation.
On the field, Fernandez has enjoyed a stellar playing career thus far for the Brown and White, as she will enter her fourth year as a starter at first base for the Mountain Hawks. In each of her first three seasons, she has been named to the All-Patriot League first team. As a freshman she was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year and as a sophomore moved up to win the league’s Player of the Year Award. Fernandez was a first team NFCA Mid-Atlantic All-Region selection following both her freshman and sophomore seasons. She also won Lehigh’s John S. Steckbeck Award in 2009, given to the Lehigh Athletics Department’s top first-year female student-athlete.
As a freshman, Fernandez batted .382 with four home runs and 31 RBI. The average rose to .442 in her Patriot League Player of the Year sophomore season, while as a junior Fernandez enjoyed her best all-around season with a .364 average, 64 hits, five home runs and 40 RBI. Fernandez enters her senior season with 42 career doubles, leaving her nine shy of Lehigh’s career record. She also ranks third in school annals in career batting average (.397) and second in bases on balls (79), a record she should break early in her senior season.
Most importantly, Fernandez has helped her team win games. She has been the starting first baseman and No. 3 hitter for Patriot League Championship teams in 2009 and 2011 and has played in a pair of NCAA Regional tournaments, advancing to the regional finals as a freshman.
“On the field, you can’t overlook the fact that she’s about a career .400 hitter,” Troyan said. “We know that every at-bat she gives us is going to be a great at-bat. We know how solid and underrated she is as a defensive first baseman. What people don’t see is that she’s a two year captain and a tremendous leader in the locker room as well as on the field. Most importantly, she has a great heart and is a great person.”
The Mountain Hawks will open the 2012 season at the Wolfpack Challenge, February 24-26 in Raleigh, N.C.
Valerie Arioto, Pitcher/First Base, California
Gracie Barstad, Third Base, Western Michigan
Emily Bledsoe, Infield, Texas Tech
Katelyn Boyd, Shortstop, Arizona State
Rachel Brown, Pitcher, Harvard
Ashley Burnham, Shortstop, James Madison
Molly Coldren, Infield, Central Michigan
Kacee Cox, Catcher/First Base, St. John’s (N.Y.)
Mallory Duran-Sellers, Outfield, Southern Illinois
Bree Evans, Outfield, Michigan
Julie Fernandez, First Base, Lehigh
Michelle Fuzzard, Pitcher/DP, Chattanooga
Chelsea Garcia, Shortstop, Oklahoma State
Molly Garst, Infield, Purdue
Ashley Guile, Infield, Nebraska
Ashley Hagemann, Pitcher, Nebraska
Ashley Hansen, Shortstop, Stanford
Shayla Jackson, Outfield, Florida State
Natalie Land, Shortstop, Central Florida
Brittany Mack, Pitcher, LSU
Ashley McClain, Outfield/Pitcher, Florida International
Jen Mineau, Pitcher, Fordham
Adrienne Monka, First Base, Northwestern
Michelle Moultrie, Centerfield, Florida
Christi Orgeron, Utility, Louisiana
Cassie Reilly-Boccia, Outfield/First Base, Alabama
Stephanie Ricketts, Pitcher, Hawaii
Rachel Riley, Pitcher/DP, Kentucky
Liz Watkins, Catcher, Iowa
Niki Williams, Utility, Washington
ABOUT THE AWARD
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award honors the attributes of senior student-athletes in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. The award program is designed exclusively for college seniors who are utilizing their complete athletic eligibility, remaining committed to their university and pursuing the many rewards a senior season can bring. The award is sponsored by Lowe's, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, and is managed by Premier Sports Management.