The 2016 season saw the Fire repeat as The Sun Conference regular season champions, and returned to the NAIA National Tournament, winning the Davenport Bracket to earn a berth in the NAIA World Series for the first time in just the fourth year of competition. SEU opened the tournament with an upset win over St. Gregory's, then shocked two-time defending champion Auburn Montgomery, before losing to eventual finalists St. Xavier and Oklahoma City to finish in third place. The Fire were ranked fourth in the final NAIA Coaches' Top 25 Poll.
During the 2015 season, Welsh guided the program to its first conference championship, going 14-1 in league play. The Fire earned an at-large bid to the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round, winning their first game with a win over Marian, before bowing out with consecutive losses to host Lindsey Wilson and St. Francis (Ill.). The team finished with a final record of 40-14, and ranked 20th in the NAIA in team batting average at .339. Cat Maldonado was named an All-American and The Sun Conference Player of the Year after hitting .395 with 16 home runs and 57 RBIs.
In year two, the Fire went 36-17, including a 9-2 win over eventual national champion Auburn-Montgomery, along with #7 Belhaven, and #14 USCB. The season was also highlighted by Welsh recording her 400th career victory on March 3rd in a 2-1 win over Bluefield College.
Welsh came to Southeastern after serving as the head coach at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana, for eight years.
During her time at the helm of the Pilots, Welsh compiled a record of 330–95–1, with six Mid-Central Conference regular season titles and five consecutive trips to the NAIA National Tournament. During her time at Bethel, she coached 11 NAIA All-Americans, 37 MCC All-Conference winners, four MCC Players of the Year, five MCC Pitchers of the Year, and the NAIA all-time home run leader, Katie Boocher, who blasted 58 career round-trippers.
Originally from Bradley, Illinois, Welsh graduated in 2001 from Olivet Nazarene University with a degree in speech communication. She 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.
At just 22 years old, she landed her first head coaching job at Saint Mary’s College (NCAA D-III) in Notre Dame, Indiana, becoming 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 program history while also producing the 2004 MIAA Offensive Player of the Year, MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, and the MIAA batting champion. Welsh and her coaching staff were also named the 2004 MIAA Coaching Staff of the Year.
Welsh was named the head coach at Bethel in 2004 and helped rebuild the program into a national contender almost immediately. In 2005, Bethel went 33–21 and earned a trip to the NAIA Regional Tournament. The following season, Bethel won the MCC Conference title with a 14–2 record and ended their season with a 37–23 overall mark.
In 2007, the Pilots made their first-ever trip to the NAIA National Championship while tying the school mark for wins with a 45–10 record. From 2008–2009, she once again led the Pilots to the NAIA National Tournament, finishing with records of 51–6 and 52–7, respectively.
In 2010, Welsh once again took her program to new heights, leading the Pilots to a No. 3 ranking nationally, which is the highest ranking in program history. That season, the Pilots made their fourth consecutive trip to the NAIA National Championship, advancing to the final eight for the first time in school history.
Her best recruiting and coaching season to date was likely 2011, when the Pilots advanced to the NAIA National Championship for the fifth consecutive season, despite key losses at nearly every position. Despite what appeared to be a rebuilding season, the Pilots went 38–8 overall, won their respective conference championship, and returned to the NAIA National Championship for the fifth straight year.
The year 2012 proved to be a period of ups and downs as the Pilots entered the season ranked No. 12 in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll. After a slow and injury-filled start, the Pilots rebounded to reel off a perfect 18–0 conference record to win their sixth title under Welsh. Despite the perfect conference regular season, the Pilots failed to win the conference tournament and were shut out of making their sixth trip to the NAIA National Tournament.
During the Pilots’ run to becoming a national power, Welsh placed Bethel in the NAIA Top 25, 38 out of the 39 national polls, dating back to their first appearance on April 18, 2007.
Welsh has also held high standards in the classroom for her teams. During her time at Bethel , 17 of her players were named NAIA Scholar-Athletes. In 2009, the Pilots were awarded the Girls Got Game NAIA All-Academic Award, an award given to the No. 1 overall team GPA in the NAIA. The Pilots registered a 3.54 GPA for the 2008–2009 academic school year.
Welsh’s first team at Southeastern continued the tradition of academic excellence as they registered a 3.59 GPA for the 2012–2013 academic year. The mark was the third-best GPA among all NAIA softball programs.
Also during her tenure at Bethel, she served the Pilots as an assistant athletic director, a responsibility that has carried over to Southeastern.
Welsh and her husband, Jeff, have two children, Izabelle and Elijah.
The Welsh Coaching File
Year School Record Final Result
2003 Saint Mary’s College 15–17–1 MIAA 6th Place
2004 Saint Mary’s College 20–19 MIAA Tournament Champions
2005 Bethel College 33–21 MCC 3rd Place
2006 Bethel College 37–23 MCC Champions
2007 Bethel College 45–10 MCC Champions/NCCAA Champions/NAIA National Tournament
2008 Bethel College 51–6 MCC Champions/NAIA National Tournament
2009 Bethel College 52–7 MCC Champions/NAIA National Tournament
2010 Bethel College 48–9–1 MCC Tournament Champions/NAIA National Tournament – Final Eight
2011 Bethel College 38–8 MCC Champions/NAIA National Tournament
2012 Bethel College 26–14 MCC Champions
2013 Southeastern University 27–20 The Sun Conference 3rd Place
2014 Southeastern University 36-17 The Sun Conference 4th Place
2015 Southeastern University 41-14 TSC Champs/NAIA National Tournament
2016 Southeastern University 44-16 TSC Champs/NAIA Opening Round Champs/ 3rd Place NAIA World Series
Totals 513–201–2 Pct. .716