Lori Perez completed her fifth season as Sacramento State’s head coach in 2018, and 14th 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 18 years of experience at Sacramento State, including four seasons as a player (1999-02), nine years as an assistant coach (2005-13), and five seasons as the head coach (2014-pres.).
Perez’s vision for the program became reality in 2018 when the Hornets won both the Big Sky Conference’s regular season and tournament championships while qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Sacramento State, which finished the season 31-20 overall and 14-7 in league, won its first Big Sky title since the league began sponsoring softball in 2013. In addition, the NCAA Tournament appearance was the program’s first since 2008, and the fourth since Sacramento State joined the Div. I ranks in 1990 (1993, 1995, 2008, 2018).
The 2018 season also marked the Hornets’ first league title since the team won the Pacific Coast Softball Conference in 2008. Sacramento State had three winning streaks of at least five games long, and went undefeated in the conference tournament to claim the Big Sky’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. For her efforts, Perez was named the Big Sky’s Coach of the Year.
A total of seven Hornets were named all-conference in 2018, including sophomore Suzy Brookshire being named the Big Sky MVP and right-hander Celina Matthias named the Big Sky Pitcher of the Year. Both Brookshire and Matthias were later named all-region, marking the first time since 2009 two Hornets were named to the all-region team during the same season. Sacramento State’s year came to an end in the NCAA Tournament with a 3-0 loss at second-ranked UCLA, and 8-4 loss against 22nd-ranked Texas State.
During Perez’s five-year tenure as head coach, the Hornets have combined for an 133-117-1 overall record and a 66-33 mark in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets have finished third place or better in the league standings each of her five seasons at the helm, including a half game back in 2014 and 2016, and two games back of the top spot in 2015.
Since Perez became head coach, the team has racked up 39 all-conference selections, including a program-record 11 receiving some form of all-Big Sky recognition in 2014. Among the 39 all-conference selections were a pair of right-handers who received Big Sky Pitcher of the year accolades twice - Matthias in 2016 and 2018; Caitlin Brooks in 2014 and 2015.
Sacramento State improved as the season progressed all five years of Perez’s tenure, which included the 2018 season. The Hornets won their final two games of the regular season to clinch the Big Sky’s regular season title, and followed that by going 2-0 at the postseason tournament to hoist the league’s championship trophy.
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 14 seasons on the coaching staff, Sacramento State has combined for a 186-98 conference record, good for a .655 winning percentage. The team has finished with at least 20 overall wins all 14 of those seasons, including four years with at least 30 victories.
Perez has overseen the pitchers since the 2005 season, and over that time, Hornet hurlers have accounted for 19 all-conference selections. At least one pitcher has earned some form of all-league recognition in 13 of those 14 seasons, and the staff led the Big Sky in ERA in 2013, 2014 and 2018, while finishing second three straight years from 2015-17.
A Sacramento State player has been named Big Sky Conference Pitcher of the Year and all-Pacific Region four of the last five years, including Celina Matthias in 2018 and 2016, and Caitlin Brooks in both 2015 and 2014.
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 and 2018 teams 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 has two children, Caroline (7) and Jimmy (4).