Head Coach, Women's Softball
Office: Adler Athletic Complex
Head Coach Fred Caldwell
Fred Caldwell is in his fourth season as head coach for the Lady Lions. He has helped guide his team to three appearances in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference tournament and two berths to the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament. During his tenure, 17 of his players have been named to the AMCC’s All-Conference Team. In 2012, his squad set a program record for wins in a single season with 33 victories.
Caldwell has 12 years of coaching experience with A.S.A. Travel Teams, including six years as the head coach of the 18-and-under Firestorm Team based in Central PA which qualified for Nationals for three seasons.
Caldwell also has seven years of experience as the varsity assistant coach with local Bellefonte Area High School’s softball team. During that period, Bellefonte won six District VI titles and competed in the PIAA state playoffs each of those years.
In 2007, Caldwell was selected to serve as a Coach for the PIAA District 6 All-Star team for the annual Hall of Fame game held at Penn State's University Park campus.
Assistant Coach Laura Cunningham
Laura Cunningham attended high school in nearby Bellefonte, PA where she was a four year starting varsity pitcher. Cunningham helped to lead the team to four District Championships titles and one State Championship game. She had a career record of 74 – 17 with a 0.79 ERA, and she set many school pitching records, including wins (74) and strike outs (784). She was named first team All-State and first team conference pitcher on several occasions.
Following high school, Cunningham attended and graduated from Saint Francis University, where she majored in English Communications and minored in Fine Arts. She was also a starting pitcher on their NCAA Division I softball team all four years. Cunningham’s career ERA was 3.16, and she broke the following records: wins (45), career innings pitched (714.1), single season innings (212), career strike outs (575), single season strike outs (189), career appearances (129) and single season appearances (38). Additionally, she was honored by receiving the Wallace Award and the 2008 Fine Arts Departmental Award, and she was named Saint Francis University’s Woman of the Year for her athletic and academic accomplishments. Cunningham graduated Cum Laude with a 3.504 GPA.
In addition to playing softball, Cunningham has been coaching ASA and youth teams for several years. She also gives pitching instruction and has been a clinician at several pitching clinics.
Cunningham has earned Master's degrees in Media Studies and Education at Penn State. She is currently employed as a teacher at St. Joseph's Academy in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.
Assistant Coach Jessica Bilko
Jessica Bilko attended Menlo College from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2005, where she played softball all four years, as well as volleyball during her freshman year and soccer during her junior and senior years. She was the captain of her softball team during her junior and senior seasons. As a junior, she was named 2004 All-West Region Third Team, NCAA DIII. During her senior year, she finished with a batting average of .366 and a fielding percentage of 1.000, catching 31 out of 37 games. In that season, she was named 2005 All-West Region Second Team, NCAA DIII West Region Second Team, and awarded the Glen E. Dorst Award for being an outstanding student-athlete at Menlo College.
But Bilko’s softball career has consisted of more than playing. She coached several ASA and girls youth little league softball teams, and she has also assisted with several softball clinics – including one conducted by the USA Softball Team. In 2009, she was named head softball coach for Tyrone Junior High School. That fall, she was named assistant softball coach for Penn State Altoona.
Bilko graduated in 2005 from Menlo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Management, and she later graduated with a Master of Arts in Sport Management from the California State University Long Beach in 2007. In December of 2010, she graduated with a Master’s and Teaching Certificate in Health & Physical Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Volunteer Assistant Jeff McNelis
Jeff McNelis started his career in baseball and softball at the age of eight and has remained involved in these sports for the past 55 years.
Coaching at Penn State Altoona is a coming home of sorts for McNelis. As a student at Penn State Altoona for one year, he was a pitcher for the baseball team. McNelis graduated from Penn State University Park three years later with a degree in Forest Science.
McNelis turned from playing to coaching when his oldest son began playing baseball, and he made the switch to softball when his daughter Hilary began playing softball in seventh grade for Tyrone High School. Hilary went on to play softball for four years at Saint Francis University with Penn State Altoona’s current assistant softball coach, Laura Cunningham.
McNelis is predominantly a hitting coach for the team. As McNelis said, “I’ve found coaching at the college level to be challenging, but very satisfying and rewarding.”
McNelis is also a coach, on a volunteer basis, at all levels at Tyrone High School.