You can tell that MSU softball head coach Vann Stuedeman is very confident and excited about her club that she has assembled in Starkville for the 2013 season. Returning stars such as Erin Nesbit, Jessica Cooley, and Stephanie Becker, this year’s squad returns great leadership and hunger to make it deep in postseason play.
Last year was Coach Stuedeman’s first year as a head coach. Her lady Bulldogs finished the year with a 2-0 loss to Portland State in the NCAA Regionals and an overall record of 33-24. She said she knows that the second year is usually the toughest.
“Absolutely, you have your inner circle, my inner circle says year two is much harder for the coach, and I have accepted that challenge. The girls have been just as eager. Now it’s more of how much more can we learn, and an eagerness about them to represent and prove themselves.”
Coach Stuedeman will receive help via three transfers this season. A fall transfer from the University of North Carolina, Logan Foulks, joins Alison Owens (University of Georgia) and Julie Echols on this year’s roster (Owens and Echols sat out last season).
“All three of them have immersed themselves into our philosophies and our program," said Stuedeman. "All three of them were very well connected with some of the players on our team, so for the most part it was an easy transition for them. I think the hardest part was getting to know the coaching staff, but being a new coaching staff, the whole team was in the same boat. We’re all very anxious to get them on the field.
"Logan has come right in, she’s full of personality, she is also very connected with some of the players on our team, so she fits right in and it’s like she is a long lost sister you just instantly find and have a relationship with. We’re excited about her choosing Mississippi State.”
Concerning the offense, Stuedeman is happy with the returning and new speed she has on the team. “We are fast. Last year we were 22nd in the country in stolen bases. This year, we did not lose speed, and added two very fast freshmen. This year we will create some chaos on the bases with that.”
Speed and power is a good combination to score a lot of runs. Coach Stuedeman will have to look to different players to step up and add the pop to the lineup.
“Coach Reach (MSU assistant coach Alan Reach) talks about the goal of the offense is to cross the dish as many times as we can. We lost Brittany Bell and Ka’ili Smith; they were both top 10 in the SEC in batting average, so there will be holes to fill for sure. We need a couple of people to step up and fill those holes. We look for Sam Linahan to play a larger roll offensively, along with Heidi Shape and Logan Foulks.”
This year’s pitching staff will be anchored by senior Stephanie Becker, who is closing in on the MSU career strikeout record. Coach Stuedeman says that she will use more of a baseball like staff, as she did last year. She also said that it is important when you use a staff mentality to keep the confidence level up on your pitchers.
“I want them to know how credible they are, and how good they are. I wanted to teach them that we were going to utilize a staff. We’re going to more of a baseball mentality where we have a starter and a closer, and maybe even a middle relief. We talked a lot about the staff mentality, where each person sets the other one up for success.”
Each year the SEC is one of the most dominant conferences in softball, and with that comes high expectations. Coach Stuedeman looks forward her second year as a head coach in the SEC. “I love the SEC, that’s why I took this challenge,” she said. With that mentality from their coach, look for the lady Bulldogs to make a splash in the SEC this year.