Heading into her sixth season as the head softball coach at Maryville College, Leah Kelley has set the new standard for her alma mater.
Kelley has turned the MC program around, as the Scots have gone from a 14-win team during her first season to claiming the Maryville College school record with 31 wins — three more than any other team in school history. She led Maryville to its first-ever USA South Regular Season title and first-ever USA South Tournament crown in 2018. The Scots tallied only their third-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, finishing as the NCAA Atlanta Regional Runners-up — the furthest MC has ever gone in the national tournament.
That feat made Kelley and her Scots want more as they won the USA South regular-season and tournament title for the second consecutive year in 2019 followed by another NCAA Tournament berth. Those accomplishments were led by Maryville College softball’s first-ever All-American as USA South Pitcher of the Year Katlyn Smith was tabbed on the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Third Team after her sophomore campaign that saw 200 total strikeouts over 167.2 innings pitched behind a 1.54 ERA.
The NFCA First Team All-Region player was joined by teammate Taylor Campbell on the same team as both Scots were USA South First Team All-Conference, including four other MC players in Alexus Murray (First Team) and second teamers Reid Ballard, Sarah Gordon and Ashton Hayden en route of a 29-win season and 15-1 record in the USA South.
During her inaugural season at the helm of the Scots' program in 2015, Kelley led MC to a 14-25 record overall, as her squad finished 8-16 in USA South Athletic Conference action. The 14 wins marked the most by a Scots' softball program since 2012. The eight conference victories were the most wins inside the USA South in the three years within the league, producing more in 2015 than the previous two years combined.
Her second season as head coach of the Orange and Garnet, Kelley turned the program into a conference contender. After being picked 11th in the preseason poll, Maryville rattled off the most wins since 2007 with a 25-17 record. The first 20-win season since 2009 was also highlighted by the Scots' second-place finish in the USA South with a 15-5 mark overall. Under Leah's leadership, Maryville hit .331 while finishing third in the USA South Conference Tournament.
Kelley earned USA South Coach of the Year honors after the 2016 season, as she became the first person in Maryville College history to earn both Player of the Year (2011 Great South Athletic Conference) and Coach of the Year (2016 USA South Athletic Conference) in the Orange and Garnet.
In the spring of 2017, her Scots once again battled for a third-place finish at the USA South Conference Tournament. Her squad went 22-19 for their second consecutive 20-plus win season, while going 9-11 in league regular season play. They earned their second-consecutive trip to the USA South Tournament that season.
During the 2015 season, Kelley produced one All-Conference performer on the second team in Caitlyn Hogg, before Maryville earned six spots in 2015-16. The Scots had the second-most team members, as Jessica McMahan (First Team), Savannah Cook (Second Team), Alexus Murray (Second Team), Rachel Taylor (Honorable Mention), Jenna Roberts (Honorable Mention) and Morgan Corland (Honorable Mention) earned conference accolades. In 2016-17, Morgan Brewer, Murray, Hayden, and Roberts each earned Second Team Western Division honors from the league.
Following the record-setting 2018 campaign, Kelley found eight Scots earning All-Conference honors. Sophomore Morgan Brewer earned USA South Player of the Year accolades, as she also tallied First-Team All-Conference and First-Team All-Western Division. Freshmen Campbell and Smith also earned both First-Team Overall and Western Division Honors, as Campbell was named the USA South Rookie of the Year. Smith also earned USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Year and USA South Tournament MVP.
Sophomore outfielder Hayden earned First-Team All-Conference and First-Team Western Division honors, while sophomore outfielder Essence Strambler earned First-Team Western Division. Juniors Nicole Blackburn (pitcher) and Gordon (designated player), along with sophomore Christina White (outfield) earned Second-Team Western Division following 2018.
Kelley came to Maryville after assistant coach stints at Chattanooga State Community College and at East Carolina University. Her coaching career follows a stellar career as a student-athlete at Chattanooga State Community College and Maryville College.
While at Chattanooga State as a player, this William Blount High School product was a two-time all-conference selection for the Tigers. She helped the Tigers earn a bid to the NJCAA National Tournament and set a record for the most home runs in one game during tournament action. After attaining her Associates Degree of Allied Health, she chose Maryville College to conclude her playing career.
As the Scots' shortstop, Kelley earned a pair of All-Great South Athletic Conference all-conference accolades and was named the league's Player of the Year following her junior season (2011). This First-Team All-Region honoree finished her senior year ranked in the top 10 within the NCAA Division III in seven different offensive categories, including leading the nation with her .522 batting average.
Kelley earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree with an emphasis in physical education from Maryville College in 2011.
Upon graduation, Kelley helped Chattanooga State during the fall of 2012 before her mentor, Beth Keylon-Randolph, was hired to guide the Pirates of East Carolina State University. Coach Randolph took her two-time all-conference performer with her to Greenville, N.C., to help set a foundation for the program.
Coach Kelley gained valuable NCAA Division I experience during her pair of seasons within the Conference USA. The Pirates earned 49 wins and 25 league victories with Kelley assisting with on-field coaching with an emphasis in developing hitters.
"I feel my experience as a player on a variety of levels and then gaining valuable experience under the direction of Coach Randolph has prepared me well for this opportunity," Kelley said. "I am an offensive minded coach and hope to put some excitement back on the diamond for our Scots in the near future. I believe we have the talent, and I look to bring some stability to the program for years to come."
The Leah Kelley Era
2015: 14-25 (8-16 USA South)
2016: 25-17 (15-5 USA South)
2017: 22-19 (9-11 USA South)
2018: 31-14 (12-2 USA South)
2019: 29-11 (15-1 USA South)
CAREER: 121-86 (0.584) 59-35 USA South (0.627)