Although the WPIAL softball playoffs just got under way this week, for many college players, the 2017 season has already drawn to a conclusion. Molly Welsh, who played at both Bethel Park and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in high school, recently wrapped up another successful campaign at Wheeling Jesuit. Welsh is this week’s feature for the WPIAL Alum Q&A.
Welsh played for the Bethel Park varsity squad as a freshman, and then exploded onto the scene as a sophomore in 2013. In that campaign, the outfielder compiled a batting average of .509, the highest mark in team history. The Black Hawks finished with a record of 10-8, although failed to qualify for the playoffs in Class Quad-A.
The following campaign, Bethel Park compiled a mark of 11-5, advancing to the postseason. The Black Hawks also scored a first-round victory against Norwin, before being bounced by Shaler Area in the quarterfinals.
For her senior year in 2015, Welsh transferred to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The Chargers collectively struggled, though, going just 4-12.
Following the conclusion of her prep career, Welsh matriculated to Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. She enjoyed a magnificent debut season for the Cardinals, playing in 48 games and hitting .391, which was second best on the squad. She also scored 26 runs, drove in 24, slugged .523 and stole 16 bases. As a result of her success, Welsh was named the Mountain East Conference (MEC) Freshman of the Year, as well as an All-MEC Second-Team performer. She also helped guide Wheeling Jesuit to its first winning campaign in eight seasons, as the Cardinals went 35-20.
This year, Welsh again produced in a big way, as she batted .356, once again second best on the team. She added 22 runs and 14 RBI, stealing six bases. Although her numbers dipped slightly in most categories, Welsh overcame an offseason injury and still played in 48 games. The team regressed, however, finishing at 23-25, although going 11-10 in conference tilts.
With her sophomore year wrapped up, Molly took time to answer questions about her stellar batting statistics, her offseason workout schedule, and her favorite vacation spot.
Q: What has been the key to your impressive batting average in your first two seasons?
A: From the time that I was 10 years old and on, I took 10,000 swings each offseason in my garage. Although it was a lot of work, I definitely think that is what made me successful. I also owe much of that to my dad. My dad spent countless hours hitting with me in my garage, and I know that made a huge difference. I strongly believe that my batting average in my first two seasons as a college athlete is from all the work I put in over the past ten years.
Q: What was your reaction to winning conference freshman of the year last season?
A: I was extremely shocked that I won the Freshman of the Year award. Honestly, I didn’t even know that there was such an award until there were only five games left in the season. It was definitely humbling for me. But, I would not have been able to win that without my teammates. I am only one person on the team, and without them, I would have never been able to have the success I did.
Q: What is your greatest attribute as a player?
A: I think that my greatest attribute as a player is I will never give up on something. This year, I went through a period of time where I wasn’t hitting as well as I had been. But, I continued to push myself to overcome this struggle. So, I would say my greatest attribute is that once I have my mind set on something, I will work for it and never give up.
Q: You suffered an injury in the offseason, but were able to play in every game this year. What was your recovery process?
A: I suffered a pretty serious knee injury on the first day of conditioning in August. We were jogging, and I slipped and my knee gave out. Although it was not exactly determined what I did, it was diagnosed as either a dislocated kneecap, which caused bruising, or a tear in my meniscus. Being out all of the first semester of school was definitely a struggle. I put in a lot of time doing rehab and getting treatment in the athletic training room, as well as an injection in my knee. I was a cleared 100 percent in January, and that was the first time since August I had done any physical activity. I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to get back into playing shape. I also had to wear a bulky, metal brace for the season, which was an adaptation I had to overcome.
Q: How would you evaluate your team’s performance this season?
A: Overall, I would say our team had a pretty successful season. We found out that our head coach was leaving and Coach Pelegreen was named our new head coach. Although she was our graduate assistant coach for the past two seasons, it was a new role for her to take on as our head coach. We had a lot of injuries, as well, that happened this season. But, defying the odds, I think our team had a pretty successful season. We lost 10 games by one run, and that just shows how close we are reaching our goal of winning the conference and advancing to the NCAA tournament.
Q: What type of schedule do you have for the offseason to prepare for 2018?
A: Right now, I’m taking a few weeks off to rest. With my knee injury, it has been a particularly exhausting year. But, starting up in the first week of June, I will be starting back up to prepare for the 2018 season. My plans are to train 3-4 times a week with a strength and speed coach, and then the other days I plan to condition to get back into shape to be ready for August.
Q: Why did you decide to attend Wheeling Jesuit?
A: I picked Wheeling Jesuit because as soon as I stepped foot on campus, I felt at home. I loved the coaches and the girls on the team. I had a few Division I offers, but I felt that Wheeling Jesuit was the right fit for me in terms of time commitment. The school is small, but it has everything I could ever need. My teammates are my sisters, and my coaches are like my second moms. I am so thankful for the opportunity that this school has given me to play softball and to get my education. I definitely think picking Wheeling Jesuit was the best decision I have ever made.
Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?
A: I am an elementary education major, with a special education minor. After I graduate with my undergraduate degree, I plan to go back to school to get my Master’s degree. I hope one day that I can teach second or third grade. Another option that I would like to explore is administration. I definitely think that being a principal of an elementary school is my ultimate goal, as far as a profession goes.
Q: You played high-school softball at both Bethel Park and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. What were your experiences like at each?
A: Bethel Park and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart were two totally different experiences. Bethel Park is a bigger school and a public school, while OLSH is a smaller private school. I feel like the smaller private school was a better fit for me. At Bethel Park, I set the record of a single-season batting average of .509 in my sophomore year. I definitely am thankful for all the opportunities I was given in high school to play softball and further my skills.
Q: What was your fondest high-school memory?
A: My fondest high-school memory was definitely when I went to Europe to play softball my senior year of high school. We traveled with the Queen of Diamonds Cup team to Amsterdam and Paris to play in a tournament. That was definitely an experience I will never forget, especially getting to play against the France and Netherlands national team. We also placed fifth overall in the tournament, so that was a very neat experience, and I was fortunate enough that my mom, dad and brother were able to accompany me on this trip of a lifetime.
Q: Do you have any pregame rituals or routines?
A: Before a game, I have the same routine. I braid one piece of my ponytail when I get to the field or am on the bus. When I get to the field, I put my knee brace on, then my left shoe, then my right shoe, and then I tie both of them. It sounds crazy, but it’s what I do every game. When I step in the box to hit, I look at Coach Pelegreen at third base, then I look at Coach Crawford at first base, spin my bat, stare at the same symbol on the bat, and step in the box. I do this every time I bat, so I would say that is my ritual.
Q: If you could bring back one TV show that no longer airs new episodes, what would you pick?
A: I would definitely bring back the Brady Bunch. When I was younger, I really liked that show, and I think it would be really neat to bring it back.
Q: What is your favorite vacation spot, or a place you’d like to visit?
A: My absolute favorite vacation spot is Topsail Island in North Carolina. We used to go every year when I was little with my family. It is a memory that I have with my grandma, who passed away in 2011 from Pancreatic Cancer. I was extremely close with her, so Topsail Island will always hold a special place in my heart.
Q: What advice would you give to yourself as a high-school freshman?
A: I would definitely tell myself to enjoy the time you have playing the game you love. I can’t believe that I will be junior next year, and only have two years left playing the game I have grown up playing. It’s crazy for me to think that I am already halfway through college. I would also tell myself to never take anything for granted. You never know how much you appreciate little things like running or playing catch until you are injured and aren’t able to do it.