Athlete of the Week: Lila Hernandez, Horizon softball

With a .495 batting average and 39 stolen bases, Horizon softball’s Lila Hernandez is the sophomore sensation leading the Hawks’ fight for a state championship.

Photo by Thomas Lightbody | TK PHOTOGRAPHY
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As a sophomore, Horizon softball’s Lila Hernandez has taken a leap in her second season for the Lady Hawks. She’s nearly doubled her batting average from .268 (19-of-71) last season to .495 (45-of-91) this year, has 19 more runs batted in — 24 to five — and has stolen 18 more bases. 

With Hernandez’s improvement, along with the team’s overall growth, Horizon has had a historic third season as a program: Most wins in its history (23), won its first district championship, advanced past the regional quarterfinals for the first time, won its first regional championship and now Horizon has the chance to win its first-ever softball state title. 

The Basics

Age: 16

Sport: Softball

Grade: Sophomore

School: Horizon High

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How does it feel to be named Athlete of the Week? 

With so many extremely talented players in Central Florida, being named Athlete of the Week is truly an honor. 

What do you like the most about softball? 

The connection I have with my teammates is my favorite part. The girls are some of my best friends. We spend a lot of time together on and off the field. 

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from softball?

Confidence is key. Of course, the physical training is important, but if you don’t have confidence on the field, the physical abilities won’t shine through. 

Who is your favorite athlete? 

My dad. He played in the minor leagues for eight years and still works harder than anyone I know. I was 10 days old when I went to my first baseball game in Richmond, Virginia. 

Is there someone after whom you try to model your game? 

Derek Jeter, because he was a great teammate and leader. Long after my last game is played, I want to be remembered as a positive role model for the game of softball. 

What is your favorite softball memory? 

Winning Regionals was amazing! 

What is your go-to pregame meal? 

Chick-fil-A never disappoints; and post-game, (it’s) Chipotle. 

What’s your go-to pre-game hype song? 

“I Want to Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston. It’s even better when (Horizon softball) coach Steve (Lenzi) sings it from the press box. 

What is your favorite non-sports hobby? 

I love a beach day with my friends. 

What is your favorite subject in school?

Science is my favorite subject in school. I want to major in exercise science in college. 

What are three things you would take with you to a deserted island? 

Survival kit, my sisters and my phone. The survival kit is a no-brainer. My sisters are so fun to be around and would entertain me and help me survive. Hopefully, I would have cell service so I could keep up with the group chat! 

What is your favorite movie? 

“The Notebook.” I love a great love story! 

If you could have dinner with one person — dead or alive — who would it be? 

I would definitely want to have dinner with my Nana. She passed away on March 2, and coming to my games was one of her favorite things. She has always been one of my biggest fans and supporters no matter what I am doing. 

If you could go back in time to a specific period in history, when and where would you go? 

I would go back to 1943, so I could try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League — from the movie “A League of Their Own.” This would be an iconic opportunity. 

Looking back, what piece of advice would you give your younger self? 

Never give up, and keep working hard. When I had surgery in 2020, I lost a lot of weight and strength. I batted 10th and didn’t play much. I could have quit softball or outwork everyone else. I chose to work harder and persevere. 

If you could ask your future self a question, what would it be?

Did I make the most of the opportunities that came my way? 

Who is your favorite superhero? 

Superman, because he is a symbol of strength and hope; (and) he can fly and has super speed. 

Who is your favorite supervillain? 

Loki, because he transforms from villain to hero. 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? 

I would love to be able to fly. Having an aerial view of everyday life would be interesting. 

If you could travel to three places in the world, where would you go? 

Greece, Paris and Italy. I am a foodie and would love to eat my way through Europe. Also, I could incorporate my love for the beach in Italy and Greece.  

Does pineapple belong on pizza? 

If it makes you happy, go for it! 

Please send athlete of the week nominations to Orange Observer Sports Editor Sam Albuquerque. Please also contact him with story ideas, game results and statistics.

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Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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