College Sports

McKendree hires former Missouri stars Fleming, Thomas to lead softball program

McKendree University on Tuesday hired Ashley Fleming as its new softball coach and Chelsea Thomas as Fleming’s top assistant and pitching coach.

Fleming replaces Evelyn Bean, who resigned June 3 after 518 wins in 18 seasons. Fleming and Thomas both played at the University of Missouri and were assistants at St. Louis University the last two seasons.

McKendree Athletics Director Chuck Brueggemann called Tuesday “a great day for the McKendree softball program,” in a statement released by the university.

“After their outstanding playing careers at Missouri, both Ashley and Chelsea have both made an impact in just a few short years as assistant coaches,” Brueggemann said. “They have displayed proven success already in the coaching profession, and have continued to learn the game from some of the greatest minds within the sport.

“Every program they have been associated with, either as players or coaches, has enjoyed success at the highest levels. I have no doubt that Ashley will use her experience and enthusiasm to build our team into one of the top programs in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. ... We can’t wait to see the strides that the McKendree softball program will make under the leadership of Ashley and Chelsea.”

Fleming, a native of Silex, Mo., recently completed her second season as an assistant coach at SLU. She began her coaching career with a one-year stint at Central Methodist University in 2013.

As a first baseman and outfielder at Missouri, Fleming helped lead the Tigers to three consecutive Women’s College World Series appearances from 2009-11. She was a National Fastpitch Coaches Association second-team All-America honoree in 2011 and 2012.

Fleming closed her Missouri career ranked in the top 10 of several categories, including batting average (.340), hits (201), doubles (42), home runs (43), runs scored (156), runs batted in (173), slugging percentage (.632) and walks (97). She led the Tigers in batting average in each of her final two seasons, including a .365 clip as a senior in 2012.

“I’m extremely excited for this opportunity to lead the McKendree softball program,” said Fleming. ... “I’m proud to become one of the newest members of the Bearcat family and can’t wait to get started. We have an opportunity to build something big here, and we want to do it the right way.”

Thomas was one of the most decorated pitchers in Missouri softball history. She left the Tigers’ program as the career leader with 111 victories along with 1,174 strikeouts.

Thomas ranks among the top five all-time at Missouri in career appearances (159), complete games (97), innings pitched (925), shutouts (46) and winning percentage (.782). She tied for the program’s single-season wins mark with 32 in 2011, the same year she struck out a school-record 397 batters. Thomas also led the NCAA with a 0.95 ERA that season.

Thomas was twice named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year (2011 and 2012) before collecting the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year award as a senior in 2013.

“I am really excited to continue working with Ashley,” Thomas said. “She has great things planned for the program and I can’t wait to help her implement those ideas.”