Chris BellottoHead Coach
Alma Mater: Florida Southern, '80
Office Phone: 863-680-4249
Chris Bellotto is now in her 33rd season as the only head softball coach Florida Southern has ever had. She’s been at the college in one capacity or another for a total of 37 years, a career that began as a player/coach for the Moccasin club softball team in 1978. She was later hired as head coach when the program was given full intercollegiate status in 1982, and led them through the transition to fast-pitch in 1985.
Entering the 2014 season, Bellotto owns a career record of 1,207-428, which includes an 80-34 mark in three slow-pitch seasons from 1982-84. Since then, Bellotto and the Moccasins have gone 1,127-394 in fast-pitch competition, a win total that puts her among the all-time leaders in every coaching category in the NCAA record book. She’s one of only 22 coaches in any division with 1,000 or more wins, and one of 11 who are still active. She begins 2014 in 13th place on the all-divisions fast-pitch coaching list, and fourth on the Division II list. Her .741 career winning percentage ranks ninth in D- II, and is also among the best across the entire NCAA.
Those are just some of the many accomplishments that earned Bellotto the highest individual honor a college softball coach can achieve when she was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame on December 10, 2010. She is one of only 10 coaches who have spent their entire career at the Division II level to earn induction.
During her 32-year tenure at Florida Southern, the Moccasins have had just two losing seasons, while winning 30 or more games 24 times. They also have 17 seasons with 40 or more wins, three seasons with at least 50, and have averaged better than 40 wins per year since 1987. They set a school record with 55 wins in both 2004 and 2006.
With Bellotto guiding the team since its inception, Florida Southern has won more conference titles than any other Division II program, and in 2012, the Moccasins made their 20th trip to the NCAA Tournament. All of those postseason bids have come since 1987, and the Mocs have won more postseason games and regional titles than all but one other current Division II school. During her time at Florida Southern, Bellotto and the Moccasins have made three appearances in the national championship game (most recently in 2004) and are one of only two schools at any level to play in a national title game in each of the first three decades the NCAA has held a softball championship.
Overall, Bellotto has won 24 conference titles (combining slow-pitch and fast-pitch), eight regional titles and one National Championship. That national title came in 1993 when Florida Southern went 45-11, came out of the loser’s bracket with back-to-back shutouts after dropping its first game at the National Tournament, and closed things out with an 11-5 victory over Augustana (SD) that gave the school its first national championship in women’s athletics. Those 11 runs are still a Division II championship game record.
Florida Southern’s 20 NCAA tournament appearances under Bellotto rank fifth on the list of Division II softball programs, and with over 100 NCAA postseason games to her credit, Bellotto has also led the Mocs to 64 playoff wins, a number surpassed by only former Bloomsburg coach Jan Hutchinson with 84. In their 20 trips to the NCAA playoffs, the Mocs have advanced at least as far as the region final 15 times, and only once have they been eliminated in two games.
Florida Southern’s most recent trip to the NCAA postseason came in 2012, when Bellotto led the Moccasins through a late-season run that saw them jump three teams in the regional rankings over the last two weeks of the regular season and take two-of-three from 14th-ranked Rollins to earn the #6 seed in the South Region Tournament. Once there, the Mocs opened the tournament with a 1-0 win over 13th-ranked and 3rd-seeded Barry before posting two wins over West Alabama to earn their first trip to the Super Regionals since the NCAA adopted that format in 2009. That sent the Mocs to Valdosta where they squared off against top-ranked Valdosta State for the South Region title. Although Florida Southern's season ended there, even in defeat the Mocs showed they were still one of the best teams in the country as they pushed the eventual national champions to the limit before falling 2-1 in 16 innings and 2-0.
Bellotto’s coaching career began in 1979, when Florida Southern began softball as a club sport. That year, while still a student at the college, she led the Mocs to fifth place in the state tournament. In 1980, as a college senior, Bellotto’s team went 15-10, and her 1981 squad was 22-9 while competing with no scholarships against schools that offered as many as 15.
One year later, Florida Southern became a full-fledged intercollegiate program and Bellotto was the obvious choice as the first head coach. She guided the Moccasins to a 22-12 overall record and a perfect 16-0 mark in the Sunshine State Conference, which was sponsoring slow-pitch softball for the first time. Her first win came on March 17, 1982, when the Mocs defeated Saint Leo, 11-4. The Mocs won the SSC title again in 1983 and ‘84, going 16-0 in the conference during both of those seasons too, before the SSC moved to fast-pitch competition in 1985.
After two more conference titles in 1985 and ‘86, Bellotto took the Moccasins to the next level in 1987, as Florida Southern earned its first NCAA Tournament bid in softball. The Mocs won a then school-record 49 games that year, went 24-0 in conference play, and swept through the regional tournament without allowing a run, before they eventually lost in the National Championship Game to Cal State-Northridge.
Bellotto’s success continued throughout the remainder of the ‘80’s and into the ‘90’s as Florida Southern would go on to win 16 straight Sunshine State Conference fast-pitch titles from 1985-2000, and earn 14 consecutive NCAA bids from 1987-2000. Combined with their three slow-pitch titles, Florida Southern’s 19 consecutive conference championships are a feat unmatched anywhere in Division II softball.
At one point, from the middle of the 1985 season through the end of 1989, Florida Southern won 95 consecutive conference games, including 62 in shutout fashion. That 95-game winning streak is the longest for any team in any conference sport since the SSC was founded in 1975.
Of course the highlight of the 1990’s was the Moccasins’ first national championship in 1993. During that historic season, Bellotto took a team that had lost four position starters and its #1 pitcher from the previous year, replaced them in the lineup with four freshmen and a sophomore with only 10.0 career innings, and watched them go 45-11 overall and 23-1 in the SSC. Of those five new starters in 1993, four eventually became All-Americans, and 14 years later, three of them were named to the SSC Silver Anniversary Softball Team.
The Mocs won 21 of their last 22 regular season games that year before heading to Joplin, Missouri where they dug their way out of the loser’s bracket by winning three games on the final day of the regional tournament. From there, the Mocs went to Shawnee, Kansas for the national tournament where they again fell into the loser’s bracket by losing their second game, but again climbed out of the hole with three straight wins. Two of those wins came on the final day of the tournament when they defeated Augustana (SD) 1-0, and 11-5 to claim the 1993 Division II national title.
By the end of the 1990’s, Bellotto had helped Florida Southern win every conference title in the decade, as well as three regional titles; and when the new millennium began, the championships continued. From 2000-09, the Moccasins won six more SSC titles, including four in a row from 2004-07, a 4-year stretch that saw Florida Southern go 200-42. During that time, the Moccasins also won the South Region Tournament three times, and went 22-10 in NCAA postseason play.
The Mocs finished fourth in the national tournament in 2007, third in 2006, and were national runners-up in 2004, a year in which they had six freshmen in the starting lineup and only two seniors on the roster, but went 55-8. Those 55 wins were a new school record, and were also the most ever by a Sunshine State Conference school. Breaking that down further, the Mocs won 11 games over nationally ranked teams during the regular season that year, and all seven of their postseason wins came against top-25 teams. That included a 2-0 win over #1 Kennesaw State in their first game at the national finals.
The 2006 team was among the best ever coached by Bellotto, as the Moccasins tied their 2-year old school record by again going 55-8, set a new school record with 49 regular season wins, captured their 22nd conference title, and won the South Region title en route to their third-place finish at the national tournament. The Mocs spent most of the season ranked in the NFCA top five, opened the year with 18 straight wins, and set school records for home runs and shutouts. The season culminated with a record-setting 13-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville in the South Region Championship Game, earning the Moccasins their seventh regional title and a seventh trip to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The Mos went 2-2 in Salem, Virginia that year to finish third overall, giving them two third-place finishes, two runner-up finishes and one national championship under Bellotto.
In 2007, Bellotto guided Florida Southern to its fourth straight SSC title and a fourth-place finish at the national tournament in Akron, Ohio. That season was significant for another reason too, as Bellotto earned her 1,000th career win on March 16 when the Moccasins defeated Bryant University, 2-0. Two years later, on March 27, 2009, she picked up her 1,000th fast-pitch victory when the Mocs won at Eckerd, 9-1. That made her the 14th coach in NCAA history to reach that milestone, and just the fifth in Division II.
Following their fourth-place finish at the 2007 national tournament, Bellotto had to replace seven senior starters, three of them All-Americans, and all seven were career record holders of one type or another. Even with that daunting task, Bellotto still had the Mocs in contention in 2008, as Florida Southern was among the top teams in the South Region all year with a 29-14 record. Along the way, they earned victories over seven teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, including two regional champions (Barry and LIU-C.W. Post) and two regional runners-up (Tampa and Wayne State of Michigan).
Not surprisingly, Florida Southern followed that year with yet another conference championship in 2009, breaking the team home run record for the second time in four years, while the pitching staff again finished among the top 20 in the country in earned run average. Their 43-15 record included an 18-6 mark in conference play, and their improvement from sixth place to first place in the SSC standings was the greatest one-year turn-around in league history. That earned Bellotto SSC Coach-of-the-Year honors for the 15th time in her career. Those 15 SSC Coach-of-the-Year awards are by far the most for any softball coach in league history, and only current Tampa volleyball coach Chris Catanach has won as many coaching awards in any sport sponsored by the SSC with 17.
As a further highlight to her success, Bellotto was named the head coach on the SSC Silver Anniversary Team in 2007, and has compiled an incredible 590-163 record in conference play for a .784 winning percentage. The Moccasins remain the only SSC softball program to go undefeated through conference in any season, doing so seven times, including a pair of 24-0 records in 1987 and 1989.
At the regional level, Bellotto (or her staff) has been named the Coach-of-the-Year 10 times, and twice she’s been selected as the NFCA Division II National Coach-of-the-Year. She first won that award in 1989, when the Moccasins went 46-8 and finished third in the nation. The second time came following Florida Southern’s national championship in 1993.
Individually, 26 different All-Americans have played for Bellotto, combining to win a total of 45 All-American awards, including 24 first-team selections. Among them are four-time All-Americans Kellie Robinson and Shelly Davis, and three-time winner Megan Brown. Robinson, Davis and Brown are all members of the SSC Hall of Fame, as are Dori Stankewitz, Traci Wood, Julianne Coleman and Wanda Graham. Bellotto has also had 20 Academic All-Americans, 91 NFCA All-South Region selections, and six players named the SSC Female Athlete-of-the-Year for all sports. When the league selected its Silver Anniversary Team in 2007, Bellotto was joined on that squad by 14 of her former players, the most of any team in the league.
With her induction into the NFCA Hall of Fame in 2010, along with Nebraska head coach Rhonda Revelle and Illinois State head coach Melinda Fischer, Bellotto has now earned similar honors in four different organizations. Her first was the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame in February of 2000, followed two years later by her selection as a charter member to the Florida Southern College Athletic Hall of Fame. In June of 2005, she was inducted into the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame. Bellotto was also honored with the “Women in Sports” Achievement Award presented by Saint Leo University in February of 2001.
A lifelong Lakeland resident, Bellotto graduated from Lakeland High School in 1974, and earned her A.A. degree from Polk Community College in 1977. She then graduated from Florida Southern College with her bachelor’s degree in 1980, and received her master’s degree from the University of South Florida in 1984. In addition to her role as head softball coach at Florida Southern, she was selected as one of the contributing writers for the 2014 edition of The Softball Coaching Bible, has served two terms on the NCAA Division II South Region selection committee, and is also a faculty member in the school’s Physical Education Department.
Updated for the 2014 season