Gary Torgeson, a Hall of Fame softball coach and former football coach at Cal State Northridge who guided the Matadors to four NCAA Division II softball titles in the 1980s, died Saturday morning in Ventura. He was 78.
Born Dec. 2, 1942, in Van Nuys, Torgeson came to Northridge to play football and later became head coach at 31 for four seasons. He was part of a Cal State Northridge sports program that included baseball coach Bob Hiegert and basketball coach Pete Cassidy, coaching stars that influenced the campus for years.
In 1982, he took over as softball coach and became a pioneer in promoting women’s sports at Northridge. His teams won four Division II titles and won conference titles in all 13 seasons he coached.
In 1994, when the Northridge earthquake severely damaged the campus, the softball team enjoyed perhaps its most memorable year as a Division I program. The Matadors went 52-10 and advanced to the championship game of the World Series, losing to Arizona.
Torgeson was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Assn. Hall of Fame in 2008.
Dana Vasquez, the softball coach at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, played for Torgeson from 1981 to 1985. “He was the most influential coach in my life,” she said. “Taught me so many of life’s lessons. Our team motto: ‘Together we’re better.’ ”
He has spent recent years in retirement in Ventura watching his seven grandchildren. He is survived by his wife, Debbie, two children and his sister. Funeral arrangements are pending.