You can’t have a conversation about the all-time softball greats without mentioning Courtney Blades. The right-hander ranks second all-time with 151 career wins from the pitching circle, and finished her career with a minuscule 0.97 ERA.
Blades began her collegiate playing career at Nicholls State, earning the Southland Conference’s Newcomer of the Year award in 1997 and the league’s Player and Pitcher of the Year awards in 1998. Blades’ 1.03 ERA during her two years at Nicholls still ranks 3rd all-time in the program’s record book; her .320 batting average is the 12th-best mark in program history.
Prior to the 1999 season, Blades transferred to Southern Miss, rejoining head coach Lu Harris, who she had played under as a freshman and who had taken the USM head coaching job before the 1998 season.
It was at Southern Miss that Blades truly thrived. She collected 497 strikeouts during the 1999 season, setting a new Division I record, and threw three no-hitters and a perfect game. Named a first-team All-American, she led the Golden Eagles to their first-ever Women’s College World Series berth. The season was also the program’s first year back after being reinstated following a 7-year hiatus from existence.
Despite her team’s 0-2 record at the ’99 WCWS, Blades still shined, holding her opponents to a .186 batting average and emerging as the hard-luck loser in a pair of 1-0 games.
Improbable though it may seem, Blades’ senior year in 2000 was even better. She threw four no-hitters and two perfect games, earning a 52-7 overall record on the year. She set program and conference records in ERA, WHIP, shutouts, and innings pitched, and was named an All-American and the Honda Sports Award winner for softball. She set a new Division I career strikeout record, surpassing the previous mark of 1,640.
During the regional round of the NCAA tournament, Blades recorded 21 strikeouts against LSU in a 13-inning loss to the Tigers; that mark stood as an NCAA tournament single-game record for three years. In her team’s WCWS opener, she threw a perfect game against Arizona, the 4th-ever perfect game in WCWS history. She led the Golden Eagles to the tournament semifinals, finishing the season ranked #4 in the nation.
After her stellar playing career, Blades was inducted into the Southern Miss Legends Club in the fall of 2000; the Golden Eagles Hall of Fame in 2006; and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.