The longest tenured softball head coach in Sacramento State
history, Kathy Strahan announced her retirement on June 21, 2013,
after 21 successful seasons at the helm of Hornet softball.
Strahan, who began her coaching tenure with the Hornets in 1993, concluded a 30-year collegiate head coaching career which saw her oversee programs at Sacramento State (1993-2013), San Jose State (1986-92) and Cal State Dominguez Hills (1984-85). She surpassed the 800-win milestone during the 2012 season and finished her career with an overall record of 823-780-3, and a Sacramento State record of 576-535-2. That Hornet record includes a conference mark of 247-221-1.
Strahan’s career with the Hornets spanned four conferences as she guided the team from the Western Athletic Conference (1993-96) to the Big West Conference (1997-02), the Pacific Coast Softball Conference (2003-12) and finally the Big Sky Conference (2013).
Under Strahan’s watch, Sacramento State made three NCAA Regional appearances (1993, 1995, 2008) and the team finished below the .500 mark in conference play just once during her final 11 years. Her Hornet squads posted at least 25 wins on 15 occasions, including nine 30-win seasons and one 40-win squad. A total of seven Sacramento State players have played in the professional ranks during Strahan’s tenure, including five in the last 10 years.
The Lansing, Mich., native was named Coach of the Year in three different conferences (Big West, WAC, PCSC), has been inducted into three different Hall of Fames in her home state of Michigan, led a Hornet softball program that traditionally posted some of the highest grade point averages at Sacramento State, and served on numerous NCAA softball committees during her career. In fact, the softball program’s graduation success rate was at 93 percent at the time of her retirement.
On the final day of the 2012 regular season, she became the 52nd softball head coach in NCAA history (for all divisions) to achieve the 800-win milestone. Her 823 victories were good for 20th on the NCAA’s list of active head coaches when she retired.
Sacramento State never finished below the .500 mark in conference play during its 10-year tenure in the PCSC. The Hornets combined for a 119-76 record in PCSC play, and the squad finished lower than second place in the league standings just twice in the team’s final eight years in the conference. Over a stretch of six straight years (2001-06), the Hornets improved their overall record each season, culminating in a 35-20 mark in 2006.
During her final season (2013), Sacramento State posted a 22-22 overall record and qualified for the inaugural four-team Big Sky Tournament where the Hornets suffered a pair of heartbreaking one-run losses. Six different Hornets received some form of all-conference accolade, including pitcher Caitlin Brooks receiving first team all-league honors after going 14-7 with a 1.81 ERA. Six different players hit better than .280 and the team strung together a seven-game winning streak from March 2-9.
In 2012, Sacramento State finished the season with a 27-19 overall record and a 10-9 mark in the PCSC. The team’s .587 overall winning percentage ranks as the fifth best mark since Sacramento State joined the Div. I ranks in 1990. In addition, the Hornets posted the best fielding percentage in school history (.979), a mark which also ranked second in the nation. Five different players finished the season hitting better than .320, and the team’s nine-game winning streak (March 4-18) matched the program’s second longest streak during the Div. I era. Senior catcher Marissa Navarro was named second team all-Pacific Region, becoming the 10th Sacramento State softball player to receive Div. I all-region honors.
During the two-year stretch between 2010 and 2011, Strahan headed a youth movement that saw the Hornets start at least six underclassmen (freshmen and sophomore) every game of both seasons. Despite the rebuilding project, Sacramento State combined to post a 25-15 record in conference play and racked up 16 all-conference awards, six of which were first team selections. That included sweeping a four-game series on Loyola Marymount’s home field for the first time in school history in 2010, and winning nine of the last 12 games of the season in 2011.
In 2009, the Hornets finished with a 28-23 overall record, a 14-6 mark in the PCSC and eight players were named to the all-conference team. A school-record five of those players were named to the first team. The Hornets won each of their last eight games of the season and narrowly missed out on their second consecutive conference championship, finishing one game behind Portland State (15-5). In addition, the team tied the program record with 34 home runs. The 2009 squad averaged 1.51 doubles per game, which ranked as the 15th best mark in the nation.
In 2008, Sacramento State finished the regular season with a 32-21 overall record, a 14-6 PCSC mark, and the program’s first conference championship since joining the Div. I ranks in 1990. The Hornets were finally able to get over the hump after finishing second in the PCSC standings three consecutive years (2005-07). In addition, Sacramento State was a bubble team three straight years (2004-06) for a bid to the NCAA Regionals, but did not get an invitation.
The 2008 season marked a historic year in which the team averaged 5.5 runs per game and still owns eight offensive team records, including batting average (.311), on-base percentage (.371), slugging percentage (.443), hits (461), runs (293), home runs (34), RBIs (261) and total bases (656). Moreover, the batting average was the 16th best mark in the nation, the runs per game ranked 18th and slugging percentage 34th. The Hornets won each of their final eight conference games of 2008 to catapult themselves from fourth place in the league standings to first over a two-week span. For her efforts, Strahan was named the PCSC Coach of the Year for the first time.
Strahan also captured Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors in her first season at Sacramento State in 1993. Her efforts led the Hornets to a berth in the NCAA Championships in 1993, the first postseason bid for any program in Sacramento State’s Div. I history to an NCAA Championship event. Two years later, Strahan guided the 1995 squad to a 40-15 record and a No. 8 ranking in the final polls. During that same year, the Hornets hosted a regional for the first time in the Div. I era and finished first in the nation with a 0.76 team ERA.
Before coming to Sacramento State, Strahan turned struggling programs into nationally ranked teams at Cal State Dominguez Hills (1984-85) and San Jose State (1986-92). In the process, her teams regularly captured individual and team academic honors.
An honors graduate twice herself, Strahan has consistently recruited and produced outstanding student-athletes. Each of the team’s last nine years in the PCSC, at least five Sacramento State players were named to the PCSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll, including 13 in 2012 which matched a program record. Ten players on the 2013 roster finished the spring semester with overall grade point averages of 3.0 or better.
The softball team has traditionally posted some of the highest cumulative grade point averages in the 21-sport Sacramento State athletics program since Strahan’s arrival. Fifteen times in the last 16 years, at least one of her players has earned NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete honors, including two in 2012 (Alyssa Nakken and Lauren Blair). In fact, Nakken received the honor four straight years while Blair received the award three consecutive seasons.
In addition to academic honors, Strahan’s athletes have thrived on the field. At Sacramento State, Strahan coached Susie Bugliarello to three All-America selections from 1995-97, Tami Blunt to an All-America selection in 1993, and Lindy Winkler to an All-America selection in 2006. Bugliarello pitched for Italy in both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.
A total of seven Sacramento State players have played in the professional ranks during Strahan’s tenure. That includes Jamie Schloredt and Izmena Cabrera, who both played for the National Pro Fastpitch League’s (NPF) Chicago Bandits in the summer of 2009. Cabrera was also selected to play for Puerto Rico’s national team in 2009.
Winkler went on to win a NPF championship with the New England Riptide in the summer of 2006. Former Hornet Katie Cichy was drafted in 1999 by the Durham Dragons of the Women’s Professional Softball League in the third round (15th overall pick). In 2003, Nicole Deatherage was drafted by the Sacramento Sunbirds of the National Pro Fastpitch League, and Gina Givogri won a gold medal at the 1994 Pan American Games while playing for the United States.
The 1989 Big West co-Coach of the Year, Strahan posted a 201-187-1 record in seven years (1986-92) at San Jose State. During that span, Strahan’s teams had just two losing seasons. Under her direction, the Spartans arrived on the national scene in 1990, finishing 34-28 and earning the program’s first-ever NCAA postseason berth. San Jose State also made its first-ever appearance in the national top 20, earning the 11th spot and remaining in the top 20 all season long.
In 1992, the Spartans finished 33-24 and advanced to the NCAA West Regional. San Jose State climbed as high as ninth that year, finishing 13th in the final NCAA poll, duplicating the team’s 1991 national finish after a 32-24-1 season. Her San Jose State teams won 30 or more games each of her last four seasons and won 20 or more each season of her seven-year tenure.
Strahan began her head coaching career at Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1984. After a 10-34 season, she led the Toros to a 36-24 record and a national ranking as high as sixth during the 1985 season.
Prior to her stint at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Strahan spent four years as an assistant coach at Santa Monica Community College (1983), Housatonic Community College (1982) and Michigan State (1980-81).
Strahan was a shortstop for the Raybestos Brakettes of Stratford, Conn., the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) national champions in 1977, ‘78 and ‘80. She was also a member of the United States gold-medal winning team at the 1979 Pan American games, while also playing with the 1978 U.S. World Championships team.
A standout softball and basketball player at Michigan State, she was a member of the 1976 Michigan State AIAW national championship team. Strahan was inducted into the Michigan Amateur Softball Association’s Hall of Fame in 1995. Six years later, in 2001, Strahan was inducted into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame. She was then inducted into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame again on July 25, 2013, as a member of the 1974-75 Lansing Laurels Fastpitch softball squad.
Strahan served on the NCAA Regional Softball Committee for five seasons and the USA Today Softball Poll ranking committee. She was also a member of the Pacific Region softball committee and the NCAA certification committee.
Strahan earned her bachelor’s (1979) and master’s (1982) degrees from Michigan State in physical education, graduating with honors both times. In addition, she authored a 224-page book, Coaching Girls Softball, detailing how to coach softball to girls ages 7-13.