A Q&A With Vann Stuedeman

A Q&A with Mississippi State head softball coach Vann Stuedeman.

This past weekend you won two SEC games. How much of a positive is that moving forward?
"We have really made it a point of focusing on the last half of the season. We really want to make a statement. We have talked all along about being a competitive, relentless team that never goes away. We want to continue that philosophy throughout the season. I think a lot of teams' identity is exposed at this point in the season. Are we talking about a vacation or are we talking about postseason?"

What do you want to happen?
"I want my vacation to be postseason. It is the best time of the year. And I've been talking about it all year with the girls about how exciting is it. We only have a couple of girls who have experienced postseason. But postseason is like being a Major League Baseball player. School is out and you are receiving meal money while you get to come out here and do what you want to do (play softball). It is a lot of fun.

"What we are going to do is take the two wins we got and run with them. We'll learn from them. And we'll continue working hard to get better every day.

"We are doing a lot of different things in practice to help keep their intensity level up. We have a bunting tournament with a single elimination bracket. The pitchers are also involved in the tournament. We also went canoeing last week. All year long we had the theme we want everybody in the canoe rowing at the same time. Early last week we went canoeing to put that theme in practice. We had some canoe races. They had a lot of fun. I think the point was made to them that we have to communicate to be successful."

What else have you talked to them about going forward in the season?
"We talked a lot about what it would take from this point forward to realize our goals, which are all still intact. Going to the SEC Tournament and then postseason. I told them there is always a Cinderella team and there is no reason why we can't be that team. We are completely capable of being that team.

"But to be that underdog team in postseason we have a couple of things that we have to take care of. That is to continue to get better every day. We have to come to practice with that relentless approach."

You talk about being that Cinderella team now, but three years down the road you don't want to be a Cinderella team, you want to be one of the elite teams, don't you?

How do you achieve that goal the next few years?
"These girls are laying the foundation for what we are striving for and that is to be an elite, top-10 team, year-in, year-out. As a coach, your goal is to always recruit players that are as good or better than what you already have. As these kids lay the foundation for success, they will help me teach that to the next group of players. That will come down to the kids that we now have helping recruit great players on campus. When we get those players on campus our current players will help sell them on our program."

Describe what you mean by great players.
"Every team you see in the College World Series will have a strong pitcher. Everybody there will have at least one strong pitcher. Not that I am minimizing any other position on the field because you have to have more than just a great pitcher to be successful.

"I am a pitching and defense wins championship type coach. So, we will always be looking for a great pitcher. We will also continue solidifying our defense. We started off low in the conference in defense and we have moved up. Coach Reach and Coach Mullens have done an outstanding job in building the confidence level in our players and now we are making plays. That is very encouraging. But we will continue to recruit talent level that is as good or better than what we already have."

You already have one great pitcher signed who is sitting out this season, Alison Owen.
"With her, we will actually have three number 1s who can start Friday, Saturday or Sunday. I believe all three can be starters. And I don't have any qualms about using a staff. The thing about having three that can start is that they all set each other up for success. We have a lefty who throws up, a lefty who throws down and a righty who throws everything. We could also have the game-three starter be used as the game-one closer. Due to those things, the hitters are having to make adjustments."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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