Vann Stuedeman has been hard at work building the Mississippi State softball program. But it’s been a very quiet, very gradual build. It’s been a build that has included trips to the NCAA tournament every season that she’s been in Starkville, outside of last year of course.
Things got a little off course for the Bulldogs’ slow ascension during last season.
A year ago, Mississippi State stumbled to an overall record of 26-31, their worst record in the Stuedeman era. The team was young, full of freshmen and sophomores, while only fielding a couple of seniors (there were literally only two seniors on the team last year). And State struggled because of that.
The Bulldogs were one of the worst teams in the conference when it came to batting last year, going .247 at the plate with a grand total of 18 home runs on the year.
In conference play, they hit .192 and had a whopping 5 home runs. Compare that to their conference foes hitting .274 and getting 22 dingers and it’s no real surprise as to why State limped out to a 3-21 record in SEC play in 2016.
Fast forward a year and you’ll see a remarkably different Mississippi State team, even though the cast and crew are overwhelmingly still the same.
Mississippi State had a .283 batting average this season, and they had 27 home runs. Though these numbers weren’t life altering improvements upon what MSU had a season ago, they were enough to continue to give MSU’s pitching the support it needed.
But it was in SEC play that the improvements at the plate were most noteworthy. Against some of the best pitchers in all of college softball, the Bulldogs hit .245 and had 14 home runs. This was one of the biggest reasons why MSU went 10-14 as opposed to 3-21 in arguably the toughest conference in the nation.
And that’s not all that improved from last year. Mississippi State had solid pitching a season ago, but this year’s pitching staff has been a bit short of being remarkable.
On the year, Mississippi State’s pitchers have a 1.96 ERA, 307 strikeouts, and 24 complete games. They’ve been dominant and in many ways it’s because of the fact that Vann Stuedeman can use all 4 of pitchers confidently and frequently. The entire staff is healthy and experienced this season, keeping the team from being too reliant upon one pitcher alone and allowing star pitcher Alexis Silkwood to flourish in her time in the circle.
As a whole, Mississippi State is considerably better in the regular season than they were back in 2016. And the year isn’t over for State just yet. They’ve got the SEC tournament up ahead and the NCAA tournament looming on the horizon. Will this be the year that Stuedeman’s team can get past the regional round of the tournament? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
In the long run, this team is in a position to continue to build the program and improve even further next year. Yes, they’re losing some noteworthy names, including one of the best hitters in school history in Caroline Seitz and arguably the best pitcher in MSU history in Silkwood, but a ton of talent is returning from a team that went 36-19 (so far) this year. Add in a huge influx of talent thanks to the fourth ranked recruiting class and Mississippi State is in a pretty good position heading into next season.