Kayla Watkins is in her first season at Southern Miss after spending last season at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee as their head coach. During her time, the Lions went 23-24 overall and 15-5 in conference.
Watkins also was responsible for the Lions’ senior Olivia Gore as the all-time hits (223) and doubles (48) leader in that program’s history.
Victory in both the classroom and on the field led to four Lions earning All-Conference First Team honors, one being named to All-Conference Second Team, a pair of newcomers making the All-Freshman list, two All-Defensive Team members, and five All-Academic honorees.
Prior to Bryan College, Watkins spent nine years as the head coach at Madison Central High School leaving with a 218-59 record. Watkins led the team to a MHSAA 6A State Championship in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and State Championship Runner-Up in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Watkins coached Kelly Young, 2012 Mississippi Gatorade Players of the Year, Katie Anne Bailey, who went on to play for Mississippi State and recent Golden Eagle graduate Bailey Stokes.
She earned a bachelor's degree in English Education with a math certification from Mississippi College in 2007 and is currently working on her master's degree in Interscholastic Sports Administration at William Carey.
Carlos joins the program after a four-year stint at Jones Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi as their assistant/hitting coach. During his time, he coached in four Junior College National Championships (runner-up three times), four Junior College State Championships (champion three times), one NAIA Conference Championship (champions) and a NAIA World Series. He also coached three Junior College National Players of the Year including recent Southern Miss graduates Lauren Holifield (2015) and Tori Dew (2014).
Last year, the Bobcats hit 88 home runs, which ranked third nationally, and had a team batting average of .388. Jones scored 570 runs (third), had a .624 slugging percentage (fourth) and had a .455 on-base percentage (eighth) all of which are ranked in the top ten nationally.
In 2016, Jones hit 72 home runs, which ranked eighth nationally, and had a team batting average of .337. The team scored 439 runs, had a .533 slugging percentage and had a .405 on-base percentage.
Prior to JCJC, Carlos Castro was a graduate assistant at William Carey where he assisted the coaching staff and coached first base.
Carlos earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from William Carey in 2014. The Castro brothers are from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and attended high school at Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.
Volunteer Assistant Coach
Bio Coming Soon!
Director of Operations
Laurie Neelis joined the Southern Miss coaching staff for her second stint as a volunteer assistant coach in the fall of 2014. She formerly worked with the Golden Eagles for four seasons from 2004-07. Neelis is also an instructor with Southern Miss' School of Health Performance and Recreation.
Neelis helped lay the foundation for bigger things to come. The team ended the 2015 season 18-34 overall with a 3-21 mark in Conference USA play. The Golden Eagles' 2015 season included upsets of C-USA West rival UTSA (W, 5-4 on March. 8) and No. 21 South Alabama (W, 1-0 on April 22). The team also posted a winning record against in-state schools, going 6-5 (.545) on the season.
The 2015 season saw the Southern Miss softball team moving in the right direction. The Golden Eagles saw an increase in batting average of 21 points from .251 in 2014 up to .272 in 2015. The teams' slugging percentage increased 11 points, while the on-base percentage increased 27 points. The Black and Gold squad of 2015 produced 46 more hits and showed better plate disciple, drawing 41 more walks than the previous year.
In the circle in 2015, the Golden Eagles saw a 0.37-point reduction of the team earned run average, while allowing 22 less doubles compared to the previous season. Danielle Block saw her ERA drop 1.46 points, while the then sophomore's strikeouts nearly tripled. Samantha Robles reduced her run average 1.92 points despite missing significant time during the season with an injury.
Defensively, Southern Miss raised its team fielding percentage, reduced the number of stolen bases against, and trimmed the number of errors committed.
Off the field, Danielle Block was voted to the Conference USA All-Academic Team for the 2015 season. Block was joined by Mallory Hayden as a C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medalist, while 12 of the 22 members earned Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll accolades.
Prior to her most recent stint with Southern Miss, Neelis served as a volunteer assistant with the Golden Eagle softball program from 2004-2007.
Before Southern Miss, Neelis served as the head softball coach at Pearl River Community College from 1997-2001. At PRCC, Neelis helped move the program from slow-pitch style to the fast-pitch game prior to the 2001 season. As the fast-pitch coach, she compiled a 58-61 record in just three seasons.
She coached the slow-pitch team from 1997-2000. In 2001 and 2002, Neelis served as the president of the Softball Association for the MACJC. Prior to heading the Lady Wildcats program, Neelis was an assistant coach with Jones County Junior College.
Neelis earned two letters in softball playing for Alpena College in Alpena, Michigan. Prior to that, Neelis was a four-year letterwinner at Cheboygan Catholic High School, where she earned a letter every year in volleyball, basketball, and softball. As a softball player, Neelis was honored as an All-State and All-Regional player.
From Alpena, Neelis went on to earn her bachelor's degree from Southern Miss on 1994 and then advance her education with a master's of science in 1995, also from Southern Miss. The Cheboygan, Michigan native is a daughter of Eddie and Carol Neelis.