Clarksville, Ark.-Fresh off the NCAA Division IIII National Softball Championship game, Illinois Wesleyan University assistant coach Denise Prather has been hired as the University of the Ozarks new softball coach, Athletics Director Jimmy Clark announced Thursday (May 31).
Prather, who has been at Illinois Wesleyan the past three seasons, helped the Titans to the National Championship game Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. Prior to Illinois Wesleyan, Prather spent three seasons at Lake Land College as an assistant coach and helped the program to a pair of NJCAA National Tournament appearances. She also spent three seasons at Milliken University helping the program to a conference championship.
"We are thrilled to announce the hiring of Denise Prather as our next head coach," said Clark. "She has been a part of winning programs throughout her career. She was involved with one of the elite NCAA Division III softball programs in the country for three straight seasons. Every head coach I talked to had outstanding things to say about her coaching and recruiting ability. She knows how to do it all. She will be able to build our program."
In 2018, Prather assisted nationally-ranked Illinois Wesleyan to its best season ever behind a 40-win season and a national runner-up finish. During her tenure there, Prather helped the program to three consecutive conference and regional championships and three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. The program finished seventh, fifth and second overall in the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm truly honored to have this incredible opportunity to lead the program at University of the Ozarks," said Prather. "I want to thank Athletics Director Jimmy Clark, President Richard Dunsworth and the entire administration and staff for believing in me. The strong academic support drew me in. I want to continue to empower the student-athletes to be the best in classroom while creating a competitive winning culture on the field. Great things are happening at the school and within the athletic department. I'm excited for the future of the athletic department."
Prather, who was part of the NFCA Great-Lakes Coaching Staff of the Year at Illinois Wesleyan and Conference Coaching Staff of the Year at Milliken, has been a part of post-season programs at every stop.
"She has a lot of post-season experience so she knows what it takes to get there," said Clark. "I think she will be a really good recruiter. She has had success everywhere she has been. I think we will improve in all aspects of the program."
In addition to her post-season success at Illinois Wesleyan, she helped the 2013 Lake Land College team to a fifth-place finish at the NJCAA National Tournament. At Milliken, she assisted the team to a pair of conference tournament appearances.
"Making the routine play is high on my priority list," she said. "Offensively, I like to use the short game. Power is great, but I'm more of a base-hit type of coach. And, speed and quickness are a part of my philosophy. I want to be the best base running team out there. With pitching, it takes an entire staff to be successful."
Prather believes Ozarks has much to offer its student-athletes.
"First and foremost, the academics are outstanding," she said. "The support is wonderful and the programs in place set up the students for success. The people are amazing and the faculty make it feel like home. It is very much a family-like atmosphere on campus. And the LENS program is a great aspect of the school, letting students explore different areas of study."
A native of Mount Zion, Illinois, Prather played at University of Illinois.
She received her bachelor's degree in kinesiology with a concentration in athletic training from University of Illinois in 2009. She has a master's degree in sport management from Illinois State University.