Patti Gerckens will enter her 24th season in charge of the UC San Diego softball program in 2016.
The winningest head coach in program history, Gerckens has led the Tritons to three straight NCAA postseason berths, beginning with back-to-back school-record 45-win seasons and appearances in the Division II championship game, the first of which brought UCSD its first softball title in 2011. The Tritons finished as national runners-up in her milestone 20th campaign in 2012.
Gerckens has amassed an overall record of 618-524 (.541) over her 23-year career, with eight straight 30-win seasons among 10 total. The Tritons have gone 474-360 (.568) in 15 years since Gerckens guided the team’s transition from Division III to Division II in 2001, including 284-209 (.576) as a member of the ultra-competitive California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), widely considered the best Division II conference in the country.
Gerckens has led UCSD softball to 10 NCAA postseason appearances, with eight at the Division II level. UCSD is 22-16 (.579) in the NCAA Division II Championship.
Since taking over the team in 1993, 28 of Gerckens’ players have combined for 51 All-West Region selections. Thirty-nine of her players have earned All-CCAA honors since 2001. She has also coached four All-Americans. Two of her players have earned CCAA Freshman of the Year honors and two Tritons have won CCAA Player or Pitcher of the Year during her tenure.
In 2012, the Tritons won the CCAA Tournament for the first time in program history after earning just the No. 4 seed for the conference tournament. The Tritons went 10-4 in their NCAA Tournament run, winning nine consecutive elimination games prior to appearing in the national championship game for the second straight year. The Tritons went 45-23, but fell to Valdosta State, 4-1, in the title game. The last time a defending national champion appeared in the NCAA title game the following year was Lock Haven in 2006-07.
Gerckens guided the Tritons to a perfect 9-0 record in the 2011 NCAA Championship, capping the season off with a 10-3 win over then-No. 1 Alabama-Huntsville in the title game.
In 2011, UCSD compiled an overall record of 45-13, which stands as the most wins in a single season in program history and the highest win percentage (.776) since UCSD moved to Division II. The Tritons captured their first-ever CCAA regular-season championship and were awarded the No. 1 seed in the West Region for the NCAA Championship. UCSD swept its opponents in the postseason on its way to the first national championship in program history.
Gerckens also earned 2011 CCAA Coach of the Year, the second of her storied career. In 20 seasons at UCSD, Gerckens’ squads have won 30 or games eight times and have finished with a winning record in 13 of those years. Her staff of Jessica Millsap, Nichole Willis, and former players Allison May and Sara Robinson was honored as the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II National Coaching Staff of the Year and NFCA West Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
After being picked to finish fifth in the 2011 CCAA Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Tritons started the season 16-2 and jumped into the NFCA Top 25 at No. 11 on Feb. 16. UCSD would remain ranked for all 13 weeks during the regular season, including seven weeks in the top 10. UCSD ended the year as the No. 1 team in the NFCA Top 25 for the first time in school history.
In 2010, UCSD opened the completely refurbished Triton Softball Field adjacent to RIMAC. It included new dugouts, a netted backstop, fencing and a covered press box. Moreover, it was made possible by a $250,000 contribution from Dana Chaiken (UCSD Class of 1991) and was the largest contribution ever made by an alumni athlete. The 2010 Tritons compiled an overall record of 30-20, winning 15 of their 18 contests in the month of March. They peaked at the Tournament of Champions in Turlock, March 26-28, by earning a spot in the Gold Bracket.
In 2009, the Tritons recorded their second-ever NCAA postseason victory, knocking off CCAA rival Cal State Monterey Bay, 2-1. UCSD’s 30-25 season, which ended with a 4-3 loss to Hawai’i Pacific, featured Gerckens’ career win No. 400 - a 6-4 decision over Grand Canyon at the Tournament of Champions on April 4. The 2009 season represented the third straight with both an NCAA playoff berth and 30-plus wins.
In 2008, Gerckens recruited arguably the greatest player in program history in pitcher Camille Gaito. The pitcher and San Rafael native, together with classmate Kris Lesovsky in the outfield, played an integral role in vaulting the Tritons firmly into the national scene.
Gerckens’ 2008 squad finished with an overall record of 32-24 and 15-17 in the CCAA to advance to postseason play. The Tritons lost a 6-4 decision to Cal State Dominguez Hills on the first day of regional play, before falling to eventual national champion Humboldt State, 3-1, to end the season.
A breakout season in 2007 propelled UCSD to its second-ever berth in the NCAA West Regional after the Tritons posted a 35-27 record during the regular season. Third-seeded UCSD recorded a hard-fought, 1-0 victory in the opening round over Sonoma State, but Gerckens’ squad suffered back-to-back heartbreaking losses to second-seeded Cal State Stanislaus and top-seeded Humboldt State to end its postseason run.
Despite the exit from the NCAA regional, the Tritons turned in one of their best seasons in program history in 2007, finishing with a 23-12 record in CCAA play, good enough for a second-place finish in the conference standings. Gerckens was named the 2007 CCAA Coach of the Year and had four players named to All-CCAA teams. She also had two of her student-athletes earn NFCA First Team All-West Region honors.
Gerckens reached a major milestone in 2006, earning career win No. 300 after UCSD knocked off Sonoma State, 12-7, at home on Feb. 25. In 2001, the program’s first year at D-II, the Tritons posted an overall record of 34-17 -- just one victory shy of the school’s all-time mark. The Tritons finished tied for second in the CCAA with a conference record of 21-11 that season.
Gerckens became the winningest coach in UCSD softball history during the 2000 campaign, taking home the prestigious UCSD Excellence in Coaching Award for her achievement. She subsequently earned that recognition two more times back-to-back for 2010-11 and 2011-12 to total three for her career.
Gerckens went 6-28 in her first season at the helm in 1993; however, she posted a 19-18 record in 1994 and had a winning season in five of her next eight seasons as head coach. In 1997, she led the Tritons to their first Division III West Regional appearance since 1991. The Tritons made their last appearance at the Division III West Regional in 2000, before Gerckens and the Tritons moved to Division II in 2001.
UCSD made its first appearance at the NCAA Division II West Regional in 2002, matching a then-school record 35 wins in the process.
In addition to her on-field success in La Jolla, Gerckens has served as a great educator for her players. Three former Tritons who excelled under her tutelage are now head coaches at NCAA Division I programs. Erin (Bridges) Thorpe became the first-ever softball head coach at Boise State back in 2007, and was followed by Kim Aggabao at South Dakota State in 2011, and most recently, Nikki Palmer at Utah Valley on June 11, 2013, as the Wolverines head into their first season in the Western Athletic Conference.
Gerckens has served on several NCAA committees over the years, including of the ethics and regional variety, and has been on the Women’s Softball Rules Committee since 2009, with her term ending in September of 2014.
A native of Old Tappan, N.J., Gerckens graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education. She was a four-year starter at second base for the Tar Heels and also played for the New Jersey Blue Jays of the Amateur Softball Association for nine years, winning a championship in 1992.