Now entering her eighth year at the helm of the Pilots and her tenth year overall as a head coach, Anna Welsh has led the Bethel College softball program to new heights as the program gained recognition as one of the best in the NAIA.
Welsh has led the Pilots to five consecutive trips to the NAIA National Championship tournament and won the Mid-Central College Conference regular season title in five out of her seven years as head coach. During her time at Bethel, Welsh has coached 10 NAIA All-Americans, 32 MCC All-Conference winners, four MCC Players of the Year, four MCC Pitchers of the Year, and the NAIA career all-time homerun leader in Katie Boocher, who blasted 58 career round trippers.
In addition to their prowess on the field, Welsh has led the Pilots to achievement in the classroom. Under Welsh, 15 Pilots have been named NAIA Scholar Athletes. The Pilots routinely rank the in top ten in team G.P.A. while the 2009 team was awarded the Girls Got Game NAIA All-Academic Award for having the No. 1 team G.P.A in the NAIA at 3.545 for the 2008-09 school year.
Originally from Bradley, Illinois, Welsh graduated in 2001 from Olivet Nazarene University with a degree in Speech Communication. Welsh excelled at Olivet as a two-sport athlete, playing both softball and basketball. While at Olivet she earned numerous awards as a shortstop and a catcher. Those awards include NAIA National Player of the Week, All-Conference, All-Region, NCCAA All-American, and NAIA All-American Honorable Mention. She was also a member of the 2000 NCCAA National Championship softball team. Her team advanced to two NAIA National Softball Tournaments (‘98,'99) and one NAIA National Basketball Tournament (‘00).
In August of 2002, Welsh began her coaching career as she took the head coaching position at Saint Mary's College (NCAA DIII) in Notre Dame, Indiana. At the age of 22, Welsh made her coaching debut as one of the youngest head coaches in the NCAA. In her second season at Saint Mary's, she led the Belles to their first conference tournament championship in the history of the tradition rich Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) by defeating the No. 3 ranked team in the country. That year Welsh produced the 2004 MIAA Offensive Player of the Year, MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, and the MIAA batting champion. She and her assistants were also named 2004 MIAA Coaching Staff of the Year.
After taking over as Head Coach of the Pilots in the summer of 2004, Welsh led a rebuilding 2005 Bethel softball team to a 33-21 record and a trip to the NAIA Regional Tournament.
2006 proved be the beginning of very successful run as Bethel won the MCC Conference title with a 14-2 record and 37-23 mark overall.
The Pilots made their first ever trip to the NAIA National Championship in program history in 2007 while tying the school record for wins with a 45-10 record. Bethel was ranked as high No. 21 during the regular season and won the programs second National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Championship.
Welsh led the 2008 and 2009 Pilots to return trips to the NAIA National Championship with record setting seasons of 51-6 and 52-7 respectively. The 2008 team earned a school record national ranking of No. 13 while the 2009 team bested that record with a final ranking of No. 8.
In 2010, Welsh led the Pilots to new heights once again. Bethel was ranked as high as No. 3 in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches' Poll, the highest ranking ever achieved by the program. The Pilots made their fourth consecutive trip to the NAIA National Championship and won Pool D to advance to the final eight for the first time in school history.
In perhaps her best recruiting and coaching job to date, Welsh once again led the Pilots to the NAIA National Championship for the fifth consecutive time in 2011 despite key losses at nearly every position. The 2010 Pilots graduated seven starters including their entire outfield, shortstop, catcher, and two starting pitchers who combined to go 34-6 during the previous season. Despite those losses, the Pilots went 38-8 in route to the Mid-Central College Conference Championship and a return trip to the NAIA National Championship.
During the Pilots' run to becoming a national power, Welsh has led the Bethel softball program to Top 25 national rankings in 38 out of the last 39 polls dating back to their first ranking under Welsh on April 18, 2007 at No. 23. The high mark so far came on April 13, 2010 when the Pilots were ranked No. 3 in the NAIA.
Welsh's overall coaching record is 339-120-2 (304-84-1 with Bethel) which makes her the winningest softball coach in school history both in number of wins and winning percentage (.781).
She and her husband Jeff, the Bethel Sports Information Director, reside in Osceola, Ind. with their daughter, Izabelle who turned five in October and Elijah will turn four in June.
|2||Kendra Zache||SR||P||R/R||Niles, Mich.||Brandywine|
|3||Alyssa Zimmerman*||SO||1B/P||R/R||Broomfield, Colo.||Pomona|
|4||Giana Zimmerman||SR||P/1B||R/R||Broomfield, Colo.||Southeast Missouri State|
|6||Holly Weaver||SR||OF||L/R||Butler, Ind.||Lakewood Park Christian|
|7||Melissa Gunderson||JR||1B/OF||R/R||Mokena, Ill.||Lincoln Way East|
|8||Courtney Cazarez||SO||2B||R/R||Temecula, Calif.||Chaparral|
|9||Jenny Hedrick||SO||C/3B||R/R||Arvada, Colo.||Ralston Valley|
|10||Katie Claxon||FR||C||R/R||Tippecanoe, Ind.||Triton|
|11||Brookelyn Smith||SO||OF||R/R||Greentown, Ind.||Eastern|
|12||Natalie Newell||FR||P/3B/1B||R/R||Goshen, Ind.||Goshen|
|13||Kelsey Ericksen||FR||OF||L/L||Plainfield, Ind.||Plainfield|
|14||Brittany Smith||FR||P/C||L/L||Lawrence, Mich.||Grace Christian|
|17||Samantha Nikolich||SO||IF||L/R||Chicago, Ill.||Lane Tech Prep|
|18||Ali Holsclaw||JR||IF/OF||L/R||Plainfield, Ind.||Plainfield|
|21||Katrina Klingberg||SO||C/1B||R/R||Crown Point, Ind.||Crown Point|
|22||Amanda Cross||FR||3B/OF||L/R||Goshen, Ind.||Fairfield|
|23||Erin Kotlarz||SO||SS||R/R||New Lenox, Ill.||Lincoln Way Central|
|44||Danielle Reilly||JR||OF||R/R||Joliet, Ill.||Joliet Catholic Academy|
|Spring Break Tournament March 3-7|
|Olivet Nazarene University|
|Olivet Nazarene University||2|