Lori Perez begins her fifth season as Sacramento State’s head coach in 2018, and 14th year on the Hornets’ coaching staff. On Aug. 14, 2013, Perez was named the program’s interim head coach for the 2014 season, and eventually had the interim tag removed and was named the program’s permanent head coach on June 26, 2014.
No stranger to Sacramento State softball, Perez took over the head coaching duties after Kathy Strahan announced her retirement after 21 years as the program’s head coach. Perez has 17 years of experience at Sacramento State, including four seasons as a player (1999-02), nine years as an assistant coach (2005-13), and four seasons as the head coach (2014-pres.).
During Perez’s four-year tenure as head coach, the Hornets have combined for an 102-97-1 overall record and a 52-26 mark in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets finished third place or better in the league standings each of her four seasons, including a half game back in 2014 and 2016, and two games back of the top spot in 2015. In addition, Sacramento State has eliminated teams from the Big Sky Tournament each of the last three years, including Southern Utah (three times), Idaho State and Montana. The 2015 squad qualified for the Big Sky Tournament championship game, but fell to Weber State and narrowly missed out on the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals.
Since Perez became head coach, the team has racked up 32 all-conference selections, including a program-record 11 receiving some form of all-Big Sky recognition in 2014. Among those players was two-time Big Sky Pitcher of the Year Caitlin Brooks, who also became just the second Hornet pitcher during the program’s Div. I era (1990-pres.) to earn all-region honors on more than one occasion. Sacramento State improved as the season progressed all four years of Perez’s tenure, going 7-3 over its final 10 games last year, 20-10 over its final 30 games in 2016, 7-3 over its final 10 games in 2015, and 17-8 over its final 25 games of the 2014 season.
Since becoming head coach, Perez has guided the Hornets to top three Div. I era single-season marks in home runs (1st, 45 in 2017), on-base percentage (1st, .376 in 2015; 3rd, .369 in 2016), walks (1st, 150), hits (2nd, 436), batting average (2nd, .303 in 2016; T-3rd, .294 in 2015), doubles (T-2nd, 77), runs (3rd, 240) and RBIs (3rd, 218). In fact, the team’s 45 homers in 2017 were 11 more than any other season in program history.
During her time as an assistant coach, Perez was influential in numerous areas of the program, including recruiting, serving as the team’s pitching coach and first-base coach, working with the catchers and infielders, as well as many other duties.
In her 13 seasons on the coaching staff, Sacramento State has combined for a 172-91 conference record, good for a .654 winning percentage. The team has finished with at least 20 wins all 13 of those seasons, including three years with at least 30 victories.
Perez has overseen the pitchers since the 2005 season, and over that time, Hornet hurlers have accounted for 18 all-conference selections. At least one pitcher has earned some form of all-league recognition in 12 of those 13 seasons, and the staff easily led the Big Sky in ERA in 2013 and 2014, and finished second in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
A Sacramento State player has been named Big Sky Conference Pitcher of the Year and all-Pacific Region three of the last four years, including Celina Matthias in 2016 and Caitlin Brooks in both 2015 and 2014. In fact, Brooks became the first Hornet in the Div. I era to receive more than one conference pitcher of the year award.
Last year, three different Sacramento State pitchers finished with sub-3.50 ERAs, including Taylor Tessier (2.83), Danielle Sperry (3.30) and Celina Matthias (3.43). In 2013, three pitchers with sub-3.00 ERA’s, and the team ERA of 2.33 was the top mark in the Big Sky and the 40th best in the nation among the 291 Div. I softball institutions. In 2011, all three Hornet starting pitchers received some form of all-conference accolade, including Megan Schaefer being named to the first team for the second time in her career. All three pitchers posted sub-2.80 ERA’s.
Perez coached the 2005 and 2006 pitching staffs to ERAs of 1.88 and 2.42, respectively. Sacramento State’s total of 396 strikeouts in 2006 were just four shy of the school record of 400, set in 1995. In addition, Hornet pitchers allowed opponents just a .217 batting average that season. The 1.88 ERA in 2005 is the staff’s second best mark over the last 15 years.
In addition, the 2012 squad, spearheaded by the strong defensive play of Perez’s infielders, posted a program-record .979 fielding percentage, the second best mark in the nation that year. The 2016 team posted a .969 fielding percentage (tied for the fifth best mark in program history) and the 2017 team wasn’t far behind with a .966 mark.
Prior to her coaching stint at Sacramento State, Perez was the lead instructor at Kelly Jackson’s All-American Softball School in West Sacramento, Calif., from 2003-04. She also spent time as the head varsity coach at Center High School (Antelope, Calif.) for two years (2003-04).
During her playing days, she was a four-year starter for the Hornets and remains the program leader in career fielding assists (495). The Petaluma, Calif., native appeared in 196 games (including 190 starts) at second base, shortstop and third base during her four-year tenure as a student-athlete at Sacramento State.
In the Hornet career Div. I record book, Perez still ranks first in assists and eighth in walks. A team captain during both her junior and senior seasons, she earned all-Big West Conference honors in 2001 and started all but one game during her final two years with the program.
Perez, who resides in Sacramento, graduated from Sacramento State in the fall of 2002 with a degree in communication studies, and completed her master’s degree in recreation administration in the fall of 2011. Perez and her husband, Alex, have two children, Caroline (6) and Jimmy (4).