With softball season right around the corner, the Bulldogs are looking to improve on their 33-24 mark from last season. The 2012 season ended in the NCAA Regionals in Eugene, Oregon with a 2-0 loss to Portland State. Although the season didn’t end as the Lady Bulldogs wanted it to, junior shortstop Erin Nesbit says that there is a big difference with this year’s Bulldogs led by 2nd year head coach Vann Stuedeman.
MSU junior shortstop Erin Nesbit
“There’s a huge difference, you can ask the fans that came out to the park a couple of seasons ago, you didn’t see the competitive nature that you see out there now. Vann, Reach, and Mullins have all stepped up their expectations for the team. Our goal is Super-Regionals and beyond, that’s what we are focused on,” said Nesbit.
Nesbit also added that last year’s team was “right there” on almost doing something great. "In a way, everyone sees that we proved ourselves, but honestly, we were all disappointed, because we could have done so much better last year. Even with Alabama, we were so close. There’s no other team out there that I really want to beat.”
You can tell that the players believe that the culture of Mississippi State softball has changed under Stuedeman. This year’s roster has been graciously blessed with transfers, including former North Carolina slugger Logan Foulks. Nesbit said that she can see all three transfers (Foulks, Alison Owen, and Julia Echols) making a big impact this year.
“Each of them brings something completely different to the team, but overall they are scrappy, they are competitive, they fire us up. The good thing is that Logan (Foulks) just got here, but it feels like she has been here forever. The whole team has just embraced her, and literally we are all on the same page.”
Last year’s team was led by a strong running game on the base paths. Nesbit believes that Coach Stuedeman’s first recruiting class will follow those lines. “As far as our freshmen go, the first class that Vann recruited, they are quick. We have Loryn (Nichols) and (Kayla) Winkfield, they are very quick, we’re going to move a lot of runners.”
Nesbit is the third person in her family to put on a Bulldog softball uniform. She says at first, she didn’t want to come to Mississippi State.
“At first, I didn’t want to come here. After my sister got recruited here, and signed here, I wanted to make my own name. I wanted to go to Mississippi State obviously, but once I got here, I fell in love with it. My little sister got recruited and my parents couldn’t be happier. Just have to keep that Nesbit name going, be there for the team obviously. My little sister is a manager on the team this year, she played last year. It’s definitely been cool having three sisters on the team.”
Nesbit added that some people like to call it a “dynasty.” After a good laugh, she finished with, “Something about Mississippi State, they like to recruit sisters. We have the Bailey sisters, the Bell’s; I guess we just have softball in the blood.”
MSU junior and North Carolina transfer Logan Foulks
Senior pitcher Stephanie Becker is on pace this year to break the Mississippi State all-time strikeout record. She credits the whole pitching staff for her success.
“I think working with Vann has a lot to do with it, we all work together really well, and we kind of build off each other. If I learn something new, or if I know something different about a hitter, we will all share it with each other,” said Becker. She said that she spent the offseason working mostly on her spins. “I worked mostly on my spins, and pitch location. Vann gave us some new drills to work on to polish things up for the spring.”
Becker’s expectations of this year’s team are the same as Nesbit’s;
“We obviously want to make it to the College World Series, there is no reason why we can’t be there. We worked our butts off all fall; we know we can do it. We’re just really excited to put all of our hard work into action,” said Becker.
Transfer Logan Foulks is a great power hitter. She was asked if she was going to walk in and start hitting homeruns.
Her response: “Hopefully, that’s the plan, but nothing is set in stone with that. I have a great team coming into it; the whole team is behind me 110%. I feel very welcomed, and the coaching staff is phenomenal. The team is nothing like I have ever played with before.”
Between Foulks and returning senior outfielder Jessica Cooley, the Bulldogs have a chance to drive in many of those speedy base runners this year.
“That’s what we are hoping for, if Cooley and I don’t, then I guarantee you that Sam Lenahan, Heidi Shape, or someone else will,” said Foulks. “We all will protect each other, that’s what Coach Stuedeman’s big plan has been,” she added.
Being new to the program, Foulks said that Coach Stuedeman’s love for the game is what she has noticed the most.
“Her enthusiasm and her excitement for every player individually, and for the team, everything thing she does is 110%, and she is always very enthused in everything she does. From tying her shoes, to winning the World Series, I love that, and I know the whole team does.”
Foulks pointed to the fact that drew her to Mississippi State, was that it felt like home.
“Mississippi State is definitely a place where I felt like I grew up. Being from Douglasville, GA, you come in and you see pastures, ponds, and lakes. I fell in love even before I saw campus, but also just the team. I can’t say enough about them, nothing is a front, what you see is what you get. It has been snowing, sleeting, and raining; just nasty here. I still wake up and think, I just love being here."
This year’s Lady Bulldog softball team has all of the pieces in place to make some noise in the SEC and on the national level. If you like a team that plays hard every game, I would advise going out and supporting this year’s Bulldog softball team, led by Vann Stuedeman.
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