One of the best players to don a UTSA uniform, Michelle Cheatham is in her 5th season of leading the Roadrunners softball program after spending eight seasons as an assistant.
Just the fifth head coach in program annals, Cheatham assumed the role on Aug. 29, 2013, and wasted no time in restoring UTSA to one of the best power hitting teams in the nation.
In each of her first two seasons, the Roadrunners led Conference USA in home runs, while the team also ranked among the nation’s top 10 for homers per game. During that time four student-athletes combined for six all-conference honors, including four first-team certificates, and the program produced its first National Pro Fastpitch player as Megan Low was drafted by the Akron Racers in 2015.
UTSA also has taken care of business in the classroom and community, as evidenced by four C-USA All-Academic Team certificates to go along with a C-USA Scholar Athlete Award (Megan Low, 2015) and C-USA Spirit of Service Award (Megan Low, 2014).
In 2015, UTSA set four school records and had five more individual marks tied or broken. The team records included on-base percentage (.403), triples (16) and walks (190) for the offense, while the pitching staff allowed its fewest amount of doubles ever. Individually, Low set the career and single-season walks records and Randee Crawford set the single-game (eight) and tied single-season standards for RBIs (64). Kendall Burton set the single-season triples mark with seven as she came one three-bagger short of tying the school’s career record in just one campaign.
In all, UTSA led C-USA in eight offensive categories and ranked no worse than third in four more. The team’s 85 homers were its most since 2005, while the Roadrunners blasted 1.57 round-trippers per game to rank ninth in the nation. The extra offense helped the squad to a 12-game improvement in the win column and the program’s most victories since 2006. Crawford’s league-leading 19 homers and 64 RBIs helped her earn first-team All-C-USA honors along with Low, who became just the second player in program history to take home at least three first-team all-conference laurels. Meanwhile, Burton paced the conference and ranked eighth in the nation in triples en route to second-team all-conference and All-Freshman Team honors.
In 2014, the Roadrunners led C-USA with 71 home runs and ranked eighth in the nation by crushing 1.31 round-trippers per game. The team hit seven grand slams during the campaign and in Cheatham’s second game at the helm, UTSA tied an NCAA record with two grand slams in an inning.
The power surge was led by Jori Fox and Low, who were the only C-USA teammates to produce at least 40 RBIs in the regular season. The pair earned first-team all-conference honors, while Low also picked up second-team All-South Region laurels from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). Playing her first season at first base, Low slugged 22 homers (2nd most in program history) and finished the regular season tied for the nation’s lead in that category after holding the top spot for six consecutive weeks.
Cheatham spent the previous eight years on the Roadrunners’ coaching staff as an assistant coach. She was hired prior to the 2006 season and worked with the catchers, outfielders and assisted hitting instruction in addition to duties as the team’s first base coach, equipment manager and travel coordinator.
During her eight seasons, UTSA produced a total of 29 all-conference selections, including 12 first-team nods, three NFCA All-Region picks (Jessica Els/2006, Jessica Rogers/2007, Caitlyn Ivy/2010), three Southland Conference Freshmen of the Year (Brittany Cantu/2006, Molly Fichtner/2011, Megan Low/2012) and a Southland Utility Player of the Year honoree (Amanda Horton/2006).
In 2013, Cheatham mentored outfielder Darian Blake, who picked up first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors after leading the team with a .360 batting average, 54 hits, 24 runs and three triples. The Roadrunners finished the season with a .970 fielding percentage, which ranked 32nd in the nation. UTSA’s last two seasons in the Southland were highlighted by back-to-back Freshman of the Year awards for catchers Molly Fichtner and Megan Low. The pair led their respective teams in batting average, home runs and RBIs and posted fielding percentages better than .980.
Cheatham helped the Roadrunners post a 37-14 record and reach the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history in her first season in 2006. UTSA won its third consecutive Southland Regular Season Championship with a 22-5 mark and the Birds swept through the Southland Tournament undefeated for the second time in three years.
UTSA also continued its power-hitting prowess with the help of Cheatham during that first campaign, as it slugged 105 home runs in 51 games, a then-NCAA-record 2.06 per-game average.
In all, UTSA led the conference in home runs three times (2006, ’07, ’11) and batting once (2006), while no catcher committed more than five errors during her tenure.
The former Michelle McElyea, she was a four-year letterwinner from 1999-2002 for the Roadrunners under head coach Corrie Hill. The Clear Lake native earned second-team all-conference honors in 2000 and 2002 at catcher. Cheatham led the league with 18 home runs and 50 runs scored as a sophomore in 2000 and picked up NFCA All-Region and Southland All-Tournament Team laurels following the campaign.
She still appears on eight of the school’s career charts including putouts (3rd/1,172), walks (6th/85), RBIs (t-5th/126), home runs (7th/37), extra-base hits (7th/73), runs (7th/127), hits (9th/208) and doubles (t-9th/35) and closed her career with a .306 batting average. In addition, Cheatham owns the single-season record for putouts with 455 in 2002.
Cheatham, who graduated with a bachelor’s of business administration degree in accounting from UTSA in 2003, and her husband, Brian, have twin sons, Austin and Brayden.