Vann Stuedeman and the Mississippi State softball team will be getting their season started off with the Bulldog Kickoff Classic this afternoon. The Bulldog Kickoff Classic is the first of five tournament type events that MSU will compete in this season and one of three that’ll be in Starkville.
Stuedeman’s squad will look to get off to a hot start this season and will be facing three opponents this weekend: Georgia State, Stephen F. Austin State, and Western Kentucky. After these teams go through some preliminary games to get things started, they will be seeded 1-4.
The top seed and the fourth seed will then play on Saturday afternoon and the second and third seeds will match up Saturday evening. On Sunday, a consolation game will be played by the losers of the two games on Saturday, and the winners will play a championship game around 1:30 pm.
Obviously, the Bulldogs will hope to be in their own championship game come Sunday. But first comes their game against Georgia State this afternoon at 3:00.
Georgia State 2/10/17 3:00 PM
Georgia State comes to Starkville after finishing 33-28 on the season. The Panthers did not end up making it to the NCAA tournament, and found themselves third in the Sun Belt Tournament last season. The Panthers will be bringing back all their best hitters from last season, but they’ll need to replace their ace pitcher, Katie Worley.
Ivie Drake was their leading hitter during the 2016 campaign and the junior looks to build off of her strong season last year. Drake hit 16 home runs a season ago, almost matching MSU’s total of 18 for the season. Senior Kensey Caldwell hit 8 home runs a year ago, but had a team leading 52 RBIs in 2016.
Stephen F. Austin 2/10/17 5:30 PM
After Georgia State, the Bulldogs will welcome Stephen F. Austin’s softball team in the second game of a double header. The Ladyjacks went 28-29 a season ago and are coming to Starkville from Nacogdoches, Texas, which is nestled in the Piney Woods of East Texas. Though they weren’t much of a power hitting team last year, they bring with them a pair of junior pitchers that could cause trouble for MSU, and the other teams in this tournament.
Callee Guffey recorded a 2.51 ERA in 128.2 innings pitched and compiled herself a nice 12-5 win-loss record along the way. She struck 74 batters out and appeared in 29 games. Makayla Sikes had an almost equally impressive season in 2016. In 123.2 inning pitched, Sikes posted a 3.17 ERA and struck out a team high 76 batters, but was more impressive in conference play. It was there that Sikes made her mark, with a 2.08 ERA in 74 innings pitched and striking out 49 batters. All of which were team bests.
Western Kentucky 2/11/17 12:30 PM
The last of the three scheduled games, before the tournament seeded games begin, is against Western Kentucky on Saturday at 12:30. The Hilltoppers struggled to a 17-30 record last year, but they’re hoping that their incredibly young team can have a better season in 2017.
The Hilltoppers welcomed 8 new freshmen to their team this season, and it is by far the largest class on their roster. They have a total of 9 freshmen (including a redshirt) and a combined 5 sophomores, juniors, and seniors. In addition to bringing in a large freshman class, the Hilltoppers signed two transfers as well. This influx of youth could go a long way to building their program back up over the next few seasons, but it’s unclear how big of an impact it will have immediately.