Before last week, many young athletes did not know who Cecilia Lisua and Jose Sablan were, and had no clue about their accomplishments that help shape the local sports scene to what it is today.
All that changed during the Annual Sports Banquet last Thursday when Lisua and Sablan were recognized by the Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association and became the newest members of the CNMI Sports Half of Fame.
Lisua is considered by many as perhaps the best female athlete in the history of CNMI sports after dominating the women’s fast pitch softball and volleyball scenes, while also serving as a force in athletics.
Lisua starred in the legendary Oleai softball and volleyball teams in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
As a 16-year-old in 1968, Lisua spearheaded the Oleai softball squad to the pennant and championship titles and was recipient of most valuable player awards for both the regular season and playoffs.
In 1974, she proved to be a nightmare for opposing pitchers as she posted an eye-popping slugging percentage of 2.000 while also recording an .850 batting average. During the season, Lisua bruised the ball for 10 home runs and 46 runs batted in and was tasked with playing on first base, short stop, and on several occasions on the mound.
With her performances, Lisua was named MVP of the regular season as she led the team to another pennant crown and another appearance in the championship game.
Lisua’s numbers continue to serve as an inspiration to many others as she holds a career batting average of .750 and a slugging percentage over 1.000. She also holds career home run and RBI records in the CNMI.
Lisua was also a force in volleyball and led the CNMI to its first-ever gold medal during the 1969 Micronesian Games, serving as a player and an assistant coach.
Lisua also led the Oleai team to consecutive championships in the island-wide volleyball league in 1968 and 1969. The team did not lose a match during the two seasons, with Lisua taking MVP honors in both.
Lisua also represented Micronesia in the 5th South Pacific Games held on Guam in 1975 where she missed a bronze medal by just a centimeter in the women’s shot put.
“She’s the finest woman athlete I have ever had the pleasure of coaching in my 35 years in education and being involved in sports,” said Kurt Barnes, who served as Lisua’s coach during her career.
Sablan was also a force in several sports as he made his presence felt on the softball diamond, the golf course, and the bowling alley.
Sablan, who was introduced by sports enthusiast Bob Coldeen during the banquet, was also a feared pitcher as he became the first hurler on Saipan to break the 100-strike out mark in one season.
While playing for the Navy Technical Training Unit in 1962, Sablan was able to fan 108 batters to take home the strike out title. He also bagged the most wins and recorded the lowest earned run average, a feat known as the pitching triple crown.
With his performances, it was easy for organizers to declare Sablan as MVP for both the regular season and playoffs as he led the team to the pennant and championship
In his introduction, Coldeen shared that the team’s manager was also an officer in the Navy who would give Sablan the day off during game day.
“He would take him to a house on Capitol Hill to let him rest before the game,” Coldeen said. “Pretty special for a Navy officer to do that for you.”
Sablan began his softball career in the late 1970’s and was the recipient of seven awards and trophies.
Sablan also had a long list of other accomplishments, including being selected to represent the CNMI in the SPG six times. He first competed in 1979 on Guam, and also suited up for the Games in Fiji, Western Samoa, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea.
This after winning the A Flight in his first tournament played in 1953. In 1954, Sablan was able to place runner-up in the championship flight, and was able to improve by later winning the flight.
“He won many other championships after that,” Coldeen said.
Sablan’s involvement in golf began when he worked as a caddie at the Whispering Palms Country Club.
He also won numerous awards at the bowling alley.
Sablan and Lisua join 2004 inductees Tony Rogolifoi and Mike Villagomez, as well as 2005 inductees Irene Alpet, Tony Satur, Francisco Palacios, and Barnes in the Hall of Fame.