A Match Made In Mudville
All-American Laura Espinoza Watson hopes to help the Lion softball program take the next step.
May 1, 2003
One is a softball program looking to move up into the ranks of the nation's elite. The other is a person who has been to the pinnacle of the sport as a player, and is looking to enjoy similar success as a coach.
Loyola Marymount University and Laura Espinoza Watson are the perfect match.
The Lions, who finished last season 38-34 and in fourth place (14-10) in the Westen Athletic Conference, hired Espinoza Watson, a three-time NCAA All-American at the University of Arizona in the mid-1990s, this past offseason. This season, she has helped Head Coach Gary Ferrin with the development of the Lions batting and fielding.
And aside from being an All-American, Espinoza Watson also brings with her a wealth of coaching knowledge to LMU. Most recently she served as head coach of the Arizona Alleycats, in the Amateur Softball Association team from 1995-2002, winning the ASA Girls Fastpitch 18 and under National Championship in 2001. The Alleycats qualified for the ASA National Tournament and were ranked in the top ten nationally six straight years under Espinoza Watson, who was 356-32 with the team. Espinoza Watson was also instrumental in the recruitment process for many her players.
Her coaching repertoire also includes a stint as the head softball coach of Banning High School in her hometown of Wilmington, Calif., in 2002. She produced a 15-7 record with the Pilots that season, and was also in charge of fundraising for her squad
Along with her head coaching duties, Espinoza Watson served as an assistant coach for Eastern Arizona College in 2001 and for Pima Community College from 1995-1997. At EAC Espinoza Watson took charge of the hitting and infield instruction and was heavily involved in the recruitment process. In her time at PCC she headed up the skill assessment of current and prospective players. She also helped with the daily operations of designing and running practice plans, in-season and off-season workouts and planning the season schedule.
From 1992-1995 Espinoza Watson also helped young girls develop their softball skills as a counselor at Southwest Camps in Tucson, Ariz. Instructing girls varying in age from 8-17, she helped young women develop a love for the game of softball. Espinoza Watson was not only a mentor and role model to the girls, but was also a friend that they could relate to and look to for counsel.
Espinoza Watson's success as a coach can be attributed to the type of disciplined, competitive and accomplished player she was on the field. She established herself as one of the premier collegiate softball players in NCAA history in her four years (1992-1995) at Arizona.
During her freshman campaign in 1992, she was a first-team All-Pac-10 pick after leading her team in home runs (6), RBI (44) and batting average (.278). Her home run total was second-best in the conference that year and she also set a new UA season record with 14 doubles. Her fielding was just as impressive, registering a .941 fielding percentage as the Wildcats' starting shortstop.
The accolades continued following her sophomore season when she was not only named All-Pac 10 again, but was also selected to the All-Pacific Region team after leading Arizona to its second-ever NCAA Women's College Softball World Series title. Espinoza Watson doubled her home run output from her rookie year with 12, one of the reasons she was named a second-team All-American. In 1993 she accounted for more runs (85 from 47 RBI and 37 of her own scored runs) than all of Arizona's opponents did combined (83)--and she was only getting warmed up.
Espinoza Watson redefined college softball power hitting in 1994 with a barrage that saw her finish her junior season with her jersey number (30) in homers. On top of that she drove in an incredible 95 runs and posted an .887 slugging percentage. She was a unanimous first-team All-America selection, first-team All-Pacific Region and first-team All-Pac-10 performer. A premier slugger in NCAA history, her season marks from '94 are still among the best single season performances ever. Her home run total that year ranks third all-time in the NCAA record books and earned her the first of two home run champion titles. Her RBI total from that season stands as the sixth-best in NCAA history.
The infielder was spotlighted as CNN's National Female Athlete of the Week in early May after a splurge of eight homers, and helped the Wildcats win their second straight National Championship.
As impressive as her junior season was, Espinoza Watson saved her best for last. Hitting an eye-opening .437 in her final campaign, she belted 37 home runs, drove in 128 RBI and collected 232 total bases, all NCAA records which still stand today. Answering the chants of "Pegale!" (spanish for hit it) that resonated when she stepped to the plate, Espinoza Watson was one of the first two Wildcats that year to become four-time first-team All-Pac-10 performers, while also garnering her third All-America honor.
Like her junior season, her senior year totals also take up plenty of room in almost every category in the NCAA single season record books. Espinoza Watson's stats during her final season rank among the best single season performances in: RBI per game (2nd), slugging percentage (4th), runs (15th) and hits (16th) just to name a few. But that year, Espinoza Watson and the Wildcats fell two runs short of what would have been their third straight NCAA title, 4-2, in the College Softball World Series title game against UCLA.
Add up her four years at UA and what you get is one mightily impressive career. But her success actually began before college, and lasted after UA as well. Following her senior year in high school, Espinoza Watson was given the opportunity to travel to Australia as a member of the U.S. National Team at the World Softball Championships in 1991. In 1995, following her collegiate career, she was selected as a member of the U.S. softball alternate team.
Known in college as only Laura Espinoza, she added Watson to her name when she was married to David Watson, former lineman for the Arizona Wildcats, in March of 1996. Ten days after their marriage, Espinoza Watson left for six months, receiving the opportunity to compete and tour the United States with the Colorado Silver Bullets of the Women's Professional Baseball league. The league was made up of various teams that traveled the U.S. playing in major league baseball stadiums across the country. Of her time spent with the Silver Bullets, one of her most memorable moments was hitting a double in Boston's Fenway Park. She led the Silver Bullets, who were coached by Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, in nearly every offensive category. Also playing in many AAA baseball parks, her second-most memorable moment came when she blasted a 410-foot homerun at The Epicenter, home field of the AAA Cucamonga Quakes, in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Espinoza Watson and her husband, currently reside in Wilmington, Calif., with their two children David Jr. age four and Kristiana age one. Espinoza Watson refers to them "as the two biggest home runs I've hit in my career."