Mississippi State picked up a huge series win against then No. 2 Alabama last weekend, and after a 6-4 against Jackson State, the Bulldogs head up to Knoxville for a three game set with the Volunteers. I got a chance to catch up with Mississippi State coach Vann Stuedeman this week. You can read part of that interview here:
Tell us a little bit about this weekend. You have the largest crowd ever for Mississippi State softball that saw the win on Saturday, and you had the seventh largest crowd ever see the crazy win on Sunday. What was that atmosphere like for you and your players at Super Bulldog Weekend?
It is hard to describe because it is such an electric atmosphere. I had said earlier in the week that you could feel the electricity in the air during Super Bulldog Weekend. You can just feel it.
I looked out one time to left field and our out field lounge-We have a deck. We don't really have what the baseball team has, but we have a deck that people grill out on-and it was six or seven people deep. The grandstand was shoulder to shoulder. The fans were into the game and cheering. I can't explain the feeling, but I know that the fan interaction and fan electricity was the x-factor and a huge reason why we were able to pull out this huge win in a huge series for our program.
Some of your freshmen stepped up in the big moments this weekend. Are you noticing anything special about this class? Caroline Seitz came up with big, late inning hits against Alabama, and Katie Anne Bailey drove in the game winner on Sunday.
One thing that is awesome about that group of young ladies is that I told them that if that class will stick together, they were going to do something special at Mississippi State, and what they have done is they have stepped on campus and started drinking the Kool-Aid. They've bought into the coaching staff and into our philosophy at the very beginning. It didn't take any convincing. They bought in, and they are an extremely coachable group of young ladies, and the seniors have done a very good job teaching them the Bulldog mindset and how to be excellent in each moment.
Caroline (Seitz) has just been steady all year, and she is just a super athlete. One of the things that you love about a great player is someone who is a great player and coachable. She is one of the most coachable kids on our team, she works hard and she is one of the best athletes on the team. You can't go wrong when you have that kind of combination, and she has been steady for us all year.
Katie Anne Bailey is a dynamic athlete. She's fast, she has a cannon, she can play anywhere on the field, except maybe pitch, she could probably pitch if she spent some time investing in it. The freshman class is going to be super, and I told them that this fall.
When you talk about special, you have to talk about someone like Alison Owen. She's now a three-time SEC pitcher of the week, and just a gritty performance given the teams she had to face last week. What about her determination, and what does it mean to have a pitcher like her that you have confidence in no matter who she is going against to get the job done, and if she can't you have other pitchers such as Alexis Silkwood who have been able to get the job done as well?
It is always nice to know that someone has your back, and I think that AO and Alexis have made a very good tandem. We also have Jaycee Punches and Shana Sherrod who have played some huge roles for us. They don't have a whole lot of innings, but they've gone in and gotten key outs for us.
Alison is truly a special pitcher, and it is nothing that I am shocked over or surprised at. She had a great outing against Alabama Saturday with 12 strikeouts against an offense that has not been struck out that many times since February. You have to tip your hat to that. She gave up two hits, and one just happened to be a home run. Other than that, she (just really dominated the lineup to put us in a situation where we could win the ball game, and that is all that you can ask of your pitching staff.
What is just jaw dropping or awe-inspiring is that she comes back the next day, without a day of rest, against their ace, who pitched on Friday and again on Sunday. (Alison) threw complete game Saturday, seven innings, 12 strikeouts and two hits, and a 4-2 win, and Sunday, she comes back, starts the game and throws 9.2 innings and instead of striking 12 out, she only strikes out one and sort of reinvents herself and gets 19 popups and just had another amazing outing.
I was not shocked. I expect that from her. She is a fantastic pitcher, and I am happy for her to be able to feel that herself and feel how I see her through my eyes. She really did have a great weekend.
You have three SEC series left, including a tough one this weekend going to Tennessee, another top-five team. Then you host Arkansas and travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU to finish the season. What are your thoughts in the SEC in general this season?
The conference is loaded. We just played number two, and now we are going to go up and play No. 4 Tennessee. Alabama is number one in the league, and Tennessee is number two. You play those back-to-back weekends. That is what I say about the SEC-it is a super regional every weekend.
So once we make it to a super regional, we've already been there every single weekend. We're battle tested, and we know what a three game series means. It is just an awesome experience. It's great to be involved in something like this in the SEC and with Mississippi State.
Tennessee is going to be a great opponent up there at their place. The Orange Faithful will be in play for sure, and Madison Shipman is coming off of player of the week, so we'll have the pitcher of the week playing against the player of the week. I like the way our team is playing right now. I hope we can use this weekend series win as a confidence builder, and I hope it propels us throughout the rest of the nine games.
We have Arkansas at home, a three game series for senior weekend. They have some of the best number in the country, and they are really hitting the ball. It is not really showing up in their win-loss record, however, they still have a .500 winning percentage, and they can crush the ball. Then we have LSU on the road, and right now, if we were to play LSU, it would be a battle to see who would get into the SEC tournament, and it will probably come down to that three-game series for an SEC tournament birth, and they just took two of three from Georgia this weekend.
The conference is really just beating each other up right now, and that is a good thing. Everybody is good and it is fun to play in a league that strong.
For more on the Senior Class, Playing in the SEC, and the famous post game celebration antics by Tyler Bratton, listen here to the whole interview on the Daily Grind on Bulldog Sports Radio.