Entering his sixth season as the head softball coach at Missouri Southern in 2014, Bill Gray was announced as the seventh Lions coach in Southern history on June 16, 2008.
The 2013 season would see the Lions get back to their winning ways after struggling in 2012 (16-35) as they would finish the year with a 26-24 overall record giving Southern their second winning season in three years. The Lions would get off to an 11-4 start to the year, their best start since 2001, picking up Gray's 100th win at Southern in the process in a 10-9 win over Illinois-Springfield on March 3, 2013. Finishing 10th in the MIAA, the Lions would defeat three ranked teams over the course of the year beating 2013 Division II Softball National Champion Central Oklahoma 11-3 in five innings, and NCAA Tournament qualifiers Fort Hays State 9-8 and Winona State 1-0. Junior rightfielder Shelby Romines would earn second-team all-MIAA honors after leading the team in batting average, hits, RBI's, total bases, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. Sophomore second baseman Brooke Swadley and freshman center fielder Alana Hester would earn honorable mention honors.
After experiencing a detour in the rebuilding of the program in 2010 the Lions roared back in 2011 with the first 30 win season (32-22) since 2002 when Southern finished 34-16. Coach Gray landed five members on the All-MIAA squad after a fourth place finish in league play, their highest finish since winning the conference in 2001. The 2011 campaign also saw a record from 2001 fall as junior Nicole Reed set the new school mark for stirkeouts in a season, surpassing Britany Hargis, with 225.
Gray, a 1993 graduate of Pittsburg State, spent six years as an assistant and later associate head coach at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia where he was the chief hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator. While an assistant, Gray helped move the team from Division II to Division I status in 2006.
The 2004 team went 64-6, including a Regional title and a trip to the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament. That team broke single-season records for home runs (48), hits (637), runs scored (393) and runs batted in (377). He saw individuals break records for doubles (22) and home runs (20).
The 2005 Owls went 57-13, won their second straight regional title and were the National Runner Up in their final season of Division II play. That season, the KSU coaching staff was named the South Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year.In the three years that KSU has been a Division I program, the Owls have went 38-17 (2006), 44-20 (2007) and 36-17 (2008). In 2007, KSU won the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title and had four players named All-Conference including the Pitcher and Player of the Year.
Prior to KSU, Gray spent six years as the head coach at Division II Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. During that span, he led the Patriots to a 195-131 record and defeated three ranked opponents over a two-year span with his 2002 team going 35-20. Gray's teams were outstanding in the classroom, as well, earning a 3.328 GPA in 2000, ranking 10th nationally, and a 3.188 GPA in 1999. He had 14 student-athletes named to the Peach Belt honor roll in 1999 and 11 in 2000.
Gray's first head coaching position came at Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas where he started the softball program in 1994 and amassed a 62-45 record over two seasons. In two years, Gray coached two All-Americans, and six All-Conference players and finished fifth in the Region VI tournament in 1996 with a record of 38-15.
Gray started his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater Pittsburg State from 1990-1994 while he finished his undergraduate degree. He helped turn a team that went 23-27 in his first season to 36-8 in season two, including a trip to the Division II regionals. Gray has a 217-167 overall NCAA coaching mark and a 62-45 mark as a junior college head coach.Gray currently serves as a board member with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and has served on numerous different committees within the organization. He earned an Bachelor of Science degree in education from Pittsburg State in 1993 and a Master's Degree in kinesiology from Texas Woman's in 2007.
Gray is married to the former Jennifer Cummings of Arma, Kansas and has three sons; William Preston, Owen Michael, and Nathan Allen.
Melissa is in her first season with the Lions and comes to Southern after two years as the head coach at Eagan (Minn.) High School where she took a 1-19 program and complied a two-year record of 18-23. Prior to EHS Melissa was a graduate assistant at Minnesota State University at Moorhead, where she attained her master’s degree in education leadership. While at MSU-M the Dragons finished 14-24, 5-18 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Chmielewski played her collegiate career at NCAA D-I North Dakota State University where she played first base from 2007-10. Melissa was a two-time Summit League Player of the Year (2010 and 2008), a 2010 CoSIDA College Division first-team Academic All-American, a 2010 Summit League All-Tournament Team selection, a 2010 and 09 Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Midwest Region first-team selection, a three time All-Summit League first-team selection, a 2008 Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Midwest Region second-team selection, a three time NFCA Scholar Athlete, a 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team, a two-time Summit League Winter/Spring All-Academic selection, a two-time Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence selection, a 2007 Division I Independent Newcomer of the Year, and a 2007 All-Independent first-team selection.
Helping the Bison transition from D-II to D-I, Chmielewski, was a part of the four year period that saw NDSU go 142-85 overall and 47-14 in their first three years in the Summit League. Winning two Summit League titles, in 2009 and 10, Melissa and the Bison made two NCAA Regional appearances. In 2009, NDSU knocked off perennial power Oklahoma in the opening game of the Norman Regional and went on to advance to the Tempe, Ariz. Super Regional before falling to the defending WCWS champions, Arizona State, two games to none. In 2010 the Bison put up a 33-25 overall record, a 14-8 Summit League mark, while advancing to the Seattle Regional.
Chmielewski can be found all over the NDSU record books. She holds the records for most hits in a game, five, most RBIs in a game, eight, and most walks in a game, four. She also holds records in most home runs in a game with two and total bases in a game with 11. On the defensive side she holds the career record for most fielding chances with 1,415. She is in the top 10 in eight different offensive career categories for the Bison, including second in career home runs with 38. She also holds the career record in put outs with 1,310 to go along with her career mark in fielding chances.
A 2006 graduate of Centennial High School in Circle Pines, Minn. she also played hockey as well as softball.
Chmielewski graduated in 2010 from North Dakota State University with degrees in both physical education and health.