PERKINSTON — New softball coach David Kuhn has added a Hall of Famer to his first Mississippi Gulf Coast coaching staff. Former Bulldog All-American Kaitlin Lee is returning to her alma mater to be the pitching coach.
Kuhn is very familiar with what Lee means to Bulldog fans.
"All I keep thinking is, 'The GOAT is coming home,'" he said. "She's without a doubt the GOAT of Gulf Coast softball, and there's been a lot of great players come through there. What she did at Gulf Coast as a player and at Ole Miss was fantastic, and now she's got experience at Samford. Her enthusiasm and energy level and her passion to come back to Gulf Coast and to teach, it's so exciting to have her. I cannot believe it."
Already elected to the MGCCC Athletics Hall of Fame, Lee was an All-American pitcher at Gulf Coast before achieving national fame at Ole Miss. Most recently the pitching coach at NCAA Division I Samford, Lee returns to handle those same duties at her alma mater.
"I am just wholeheartedly excited," she said. "It's back home being near the Coast, but more so back home as in softball home. I told everybody since the day I left Perk if I could have stayed at Perk 10 years I would have said no to the SEC. I genuinely love it so much."
Lee went 40-8 in two seasons at Perk. She led the Bulldogs to the NJCAA Division II National Championship tournament as a freshman and earned NJCAA All-American honors as a sophomore. She went 22-4 that year with a 0.84 ERA, striking out 138 batters and allowing only 94 hits in 167 innings. The two-time All-Region 23 performer had a perfect game as a sophomore and also batted .369 with 17 doubles, striking out just three times in 168 at-bats. The MACJC Pitcher of the Year was the first Gulf Coast player to sign a softball scholarship at an SEC school.
She burst onto the national scene the next year in Oxford when she tied the school record with 23 wins. She threw every pitch of the SEC Tournament, winning four straight games to earn Tournament MVP honors. She did likewise in the Regional, winning three games. She went all the way in a memorable 11-inning loss against UCLA in the Los Angeles Super Regional.
Lee set school records for complete games (27), shutouts (10), innings (249.2) and starts (37) to earn second-team All-American honors.
She won 18 games as a senior and memorably pitched all 18.2 innings in a marathon game at LSU that saw her throw 256 pitches. Ole Miss again reached a Regional, and she graduated ranked second in school history in career ERA (2.03), third in shutouts (13) and fifth in wins (39).
Lee was picked in the fourth round of the 2018 National Pro Fastpitch Draft by the Aussie Spirit but returned to Ole Miss to be a graduate assistant. The 2019 team went 41-20 and reached a Super Regional.
In her first season at Samford, the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, Lee helped turn freshman Abby Swaney into the staff ace. She led the team with a 2.02 ERA and a Southern Conference-best .197 batting average against. Swaney ranked second in the league in ERA, and teammate Emily Barnett was third with a 2.36 ERA.
Barnett (3.09) and Swaney (3.31) ranked fourth and sixth in the league in 2021. Barnett tied for the SoCon lead with four saves.
Lee was elected into the MGCCC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019. She's a graduate of Harrison Central High School, where she led the Rebels to the 2014 Class 6A state championship.
She's gotten to know Kuhn since he was announced as the new Gulf Coast coach.
"I was genuinely excited for Gulf Coast because it was somebody who would take care of the program," Lee said. "To get the call from him and get to know him over the past few weeks, I can already tell how much he cares about people over players. He's really excited to be there, which makes me even more excited."
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by Don Hammack
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College