One-on-One With Coach Vann Stuedeman

Mississippi State head softball coach Vann Stuedeman talks one-on-one with Gene's Page January 9, 2015 about the upcoming season, her 2015 signing class, new assistant coach Samantha Ricketts and the softball stadium expansion.

You already have one dynamic assistant coach in Tyler Bratton. Now, you have added a second one in Samantha Ricketts. She has an outstanding resume as far as teaching hitting. Wichita State achieved numerous hitting records while she coached hitting there. What are your thoughts about her?
"She not only helped them become a much better hitting team but also a great team overall. She was there for three years and the first year that she was there, they were 9th in the league, then 8th the second year and the last season they won the Missouri Valley Conference. The last year she was there was when they broke all of their single season records.

"While she was there, they had the single season record for batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs and total bases."

She was with the MSU team during the fall. Did you see her impact hitting-wise during the fall?
"She was very credible because she was a great hitter herself. But she also knows how to teach hitting. She relates well with the girls; they respect her and like her. I noticed right away her impact on the mental part of hitting, her philosophy on how to approach hitting and how to approach certain pitchers. I noticed right away that our girls were intrigued and really soaking it up. During the middle of the fall, I started seeing that come out physically. The balls were coming off the bats a little harder. They were swinging at better pitches. They had a different philosophy with the off-speed pitches. It seemed like we were handling them a little bit better.

"I think she has a very bright future, not only as our hitting coach but as a future head coach. She is very impressive."

What are your thoughts about this year's team?
"The first thing that I should mention is that we lost seven starters. We lost an All-SEC pitcher who set the career strikeout record at Mississippi State in just a season and a half. We also lost five very good hitters.

"You can either rebuild or reload. We reloaded. We have a very large freshman class, seven of them in fact. We have two Mississippi kids, Carmen Carter from MRA and Demi Blaker from Long Beach on the coast. We have a really good freshman pitcher coming in, Holly Ward, who I expect a lot of contribution from. She was the Alabama Gatorade player of the year and she had a great fall. I also expect an impact from Morgan Bell who is from Georgia. She played for the Atlanta Vipers organization. They won the national championship two summers ago in their club ball. I expect Morgan and Holly to contribute the most out of the freshman class.

"I also look for our sophomores to step up. Caroline Seitz had a great year last year (.340 BA, 8 HR, 37 RBI). And Alexis Silkwood also had a great year (14-8, 2.19 ERA). They have a big load to carry and will probably have to step it up even more this year.

"Julia Echols is a senior who ended the year on fire last year. The last 33 games last year she hit over .400 and most of those games were against SEC teams and post-season teams. I expect her to pick up where she left off last season.

"Ashley Phillips is a senior from Water Valley, Mississippi. She has been in and out of the lineup her first three years here. She has shown signs of greatness at times but we need that greatness to become consistent this year. I'm really hoping that she becomes a staple in our lineup. She is one of our most powerful girls. We have a 300 pound squat club and she leads that club.

"We also have one of the best shortstops in the country in junior Kayla Winkfield. Coach Ricketts, who has played with some of the best in the professional league, said she is one of the best shortstops that she has ever seen. We have another junior outfielder Loryn Nichols who is one of the fastest players in the league.

"I'm excited about the year and coaching such a young squad, a squad that will mainly be freshmen and sophomores with a few juniors and seniors sprinkled in."

You mentioned some things about this year's freshmen class. You signed another great class in the 2015 class, a class that was ranked 21st in the nation. What are your thoughts about that group?
"Our 2015 class is led by Regan Green, a pitcher out of Delaware who is ranked the 14th best pitcher in the country in her class. She is going to be very impressive for us. We also signed a very good hitter out of California by the name of Sarai Niu. She is not only a great hitter who will be a threat in the lineup from day-one but she is equally as great of a person. I think she will make the people around her better players and also make them better people. Another great hitter for us is Taylor Kelly from Calhoun High School in Calhoun, Georgia.

"Here is a nice story about Kelly. At the state high school tournament her team is down by one run and she comes up to bat and hits a three-run home run. Her next at-bat she comes up with her team tied and she hits a two-run home run. Her next at-bat she comes up with the game tied and hit a solo home run. I have never seen a person hit three consecutive home runs in my life. This was in a state championship game. It was incredible. In the next game they walked her to load the bases and the next girl up hit a grand slam. They ended up winning the state championship.

"In our class we also have an in-state kid who is ranked 96th in the nation, Sabrina Turner from St. Patrick's on the coast. She is kind of a jack of all trades. She pitches, plays middle infield, probably could play outfield. I'm excited about watching her play because she plays with so much enthusiasm. First of all, she wears the biggest bow in all of the land. Everybody makes fun of her because you are out there playing ball and you aren't supposed to be wearing this big bow. But she loves wearing it and embraces it. It doesn't matter what is going on, she always has a smile on her face. She plays hard. She is fun to watch.

"The class is really, really strong. And I'm very excited about it."

You have added a great new assistant coach, have a very good young team, a great signing class coming in, but something else you must be excited about is the upcoming stadium expansion. It will transform your stadium into one of the best in the nation.
"It is going to be a first-class facility. The contractor is Reed Nelson of Copeland and Johns, Inc. He is fired up about the job. The architects are Jamie Weir and Michael Boerner from Jackson, Mississippi. They are also fired up about it.

"They are working together to draw up the plans. We already have a great concept. It will have chairback seating, a state-of-the-art pressbox, and is going to be extremely fan-friendly. We are going to have a suspension netting system so there aren't poles restricting your view.

"They will start working on it after our last game in the spring of 2015. And the plans are to have it ready by February, 2016."

(Below is a drawing of the stadium-tennis expansion that I found on the Weir-Boerner Architects website.-Gene)

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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