Amber Fiser brings black belt skills to the Gophers ball field

The rookie grew up as a two-sport athlete, in softball and martial arts.

Kyle Steinberg

Amber Fiser’s calm demeanor seems contrary to what’s expected of a stereotypical fighter.

While her focus is certainly on softball now, Fiser was a two-sport athlete growing up, and the second sport may surprise you — she holds a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

Fiser recalled one particular instance when she was disqualified from a match for an illegal head kick. It cost her the contest against a major rival but also taught her something.

“It was a good learning lesson because when we were younger we couldn’t kick anyone in the head that hard,” Fiser said.

Fellow freshman MaKenna Partain considers Fiser to be one of her closest friends and says she never would have suspected Fiser to be an accomplished martial artist, but having a black belt nearby has its perks.

“We’re not allowed to leave practice late at night without somebody, so I always say ‘Amber, I’m with you,’ because if anybody comes I know she’ll be able to handle them,” Partain said with a laugh. “She’s kind of like my personal bodyguard.”

Although she quit Taekwondo when she became more serious with softball, Fiser recognized elements from her martial arts days that assist her when she’s in the circle for the Gophers.

“Taekwondo is big with flexibility, discipline and respect,” Fiser said. “I learned to respect other people’s talents, and the flexibility helps me a lot in my pitching with my strides and speed … I don’t get too mental about anything.”

The lessons seem to have paid off.

In 11 games this season for the Gophers — second-most on the team — she boasts a 5-0 record and a 2.76 ERA.

She’s a major key in No. 6 Minnesota’s 28-2 start, providing a crucial third arm in the starting rotation to allow seniors Sara Groenewegen and Tori Finucane to rest.

“[Fiser’s] doing a good job of trusting that she’s good enough to compete at this level,” head coach Jessica Allister said. “You need to have a couple different looks [from a pitching staff], and [Fiser] provides us with another look.”

As a senior in high school, Fiser recorded an ERA of 0.30 — and that may not even be the most impressive number of her season. She threw eight perfect games and struck out 388 of the 600 hitters she faced, including a record 19 in the state championship game.

While college softball is a different animal, Fiser appears set up for success. The ability to learn from two successful veterans while still contributing holds quite a bit of value, providing Fiser with a frame of reference for future seasons.

“[I’ve learned] to not let a batter, or anyone, get to [my] head,” Fiser said. “[I just] focus on one pitch and forget about the last one … and [throw] for strikes.”