Mississippi State softball coach and players talk about the upcoming season.

GPTV: Mississippi State softball coach Vann Stuedeman and players Alexis Silkwood and Caroline Seitz talk about the upcoming season.

Transcript provided by MSU Athletics Media Relations Department

Head Coach Vann Stuedeman 

Opening Statement … “Thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate you making the time for softball as we gear up. We’re really excited about this year. We have five seniors that have seen significant playing time during their tenure at Mississippi State. All but one were starters as freshmen and the one that was not a starter ended up starting her sophomore and junior years and playing almost every game of those two years. We’re very veteran and we’re looking forward to that leadership. All five of them are doing a very good job in leading this squad, as well as our juniors, with Holly Ward being a significant presence in the circle. A lot of junior, senior leadership, as well as junior Calyn Adams, who saw a lot of time at second base last year. She’ll see split time at second and catcher this year. We’re looking forward to seeing how the leadership of these five seniors pays off and pays forward. We’re looking forward to seeing how it pays off on the scoreboard, too. But ultimately all five are winners in my heart and have made a huge impact on Mississippi State softball.” 

On the competition of the Bulldog Kickoff Classic  “Georgia State is our kickoff game. They have Ivy Drake, who hit over .380 and also over .400 against lefties last year. You can pretty much bank that you’re going to see our senior lefty Alexis Silkwood start the season opener, as you would expect to see a senior veteran pitcher start that game. Ivy is one of the Top 50 candidates for player of the year and one of the best hitters in the country, so we’ll have to be really smart. They all hit very well and have a good lineup. They did lose their starting pitcher from last year, however they do return several other pitchers that saw some action. Western Kentucky was down last year, but nonetheless, we really try to play the game and play against ourselves, not the opponent. We realize that the game is always against us and our mind. We also have Stephen F. Austin. We have not seen them, so it will be interesting to play an opponent that we have to seen. We have played Georgia State and Western Kentucky since these seniors have been here, so I look for it to be a good starting tournament. It will be a good test and we’ll be able to put a lot of players out there. You’ll see our main five, but the other four or five, meaning DP (designated player), could be a lot of different people. We’re going to be doing a lot of switches early in the year, so I look forward to playing some good, worthy opponents and seeing some strong softball out of the gate this weekend.” 

On getting the offense back on track after last season  “It’s all how you look at that. A setback is a setup for a comeback. I we look at it as learners, it’s ‘what can we learn from last year while returning all five of our hitters?’ All five of them hit and will hit again this year. So what can we learn from that and that experience? Also, iron sharpens iron. We had the third-toughest schedule in the country last year and if the adage is true, we should be really sharp.” 

On how the team has worked on the team culture in the offseason …“It’s just investing in each other. Spending more quality time with each other. Learning about each other beyond a surface ‘hello.’ Learning where the person actually comes from and what drives them. That just comes from spending time together and asking those questions. We are really trying to help our leadership council in learning how to do that beyond having a coach facilitator. I can always facilitate, but they’re going to get a little more real with each other when I’m not there. Just spending a lot of time getting in those questions and still collectively doing that. We have a couple exercises coming up in the next few weeks that I’m going to roll out. We have a pitcher-catcher, get-to-know-you monthly get together. It’s just about investing in each other beyond a ‘hello’ and ‘we wear the same jersey.’” 

On approaching the 2017 season …“We’re going to process this season from the inside-out. What we feel about ourselves is the most important thing. Our self-worth, our confidence level. We love the publicity, but we’re going to make sure we tune out some of the opinions from elsewhere. Our friends, our parents, whoever those outside influences may be coming from, the student body and what not. We know who we are as individuals and it’s 98.6 (degrees) inside. It does not mean my big puffy [jacket] will not be on, but all the time I will be telling them that it does not matter what happens on the outside. It’s about what we believe about ourselves as individuals and as an internal group, from the inside-out.” 

On the boost Nusz Park has given the program…“I think one of the greatest things it does for our program is that not only do they feel pride to put on the Mississippi State jersey, but they feel proud when they step out between the white lines. They’re proud of where they’re playing and they’re proud to look out into the stands. We set a record in attendance in a down year. So it just shows you what the facility brought to our program. For them, it’s a sense of pride that their administration, at the time Scott Stricklin and now John Cohen and President Keenum, believe what they are doing is worthy. That spills over into the community in that they showed up, because what we are doing is so much fun and is worthy of their time. And since it’s free, it’s worth their family time. They don’t have to spend a dime to come out and see us and they get a wonderful experience in that our girls are going to play their hearts out and then they’re going to go into the stands and meet them. It’s free and you can bring your kids and not have to spend $40-50 at the ballpark and they’re actually going to get an experience. One they can take home with them.” 

Sr. LHP Alexis Silkwood 

On the team culture from last season…“One thing that I like to think about is that is was almost like a twilight zone last year. So we came back and said we’re going to change this year. We’re not just going to invest in our softball skills, but invest in each other and really embrace the family mentality. You can already see it. We have weekly get-togethers at each others’ houses, have game nights, go to movies. It’s not just about our chemistry on the field; it starts off the field as well. Then you see it go into the weight room and into running and ultimately into softball. So I think that it’s definitely been an improvement this year.” 

On if she has been developing confidence in her game this offseason…“100 percent. Definitely. I told Vann that my mind just exploded one day, because it just clicked. I feel like that’s what happened this fall. Just getting past a barrier and taking what I’ve learned in the bullpen into the game. And you can definitely see it in the scrimmages about being comfortable being uncomfortable. She’s done a great job every single year. And each year it just seems like I keep getting better and better.” 

On starting the season opener…“Oh yeah, I’m just like ‘Can we go play now?’ When she said that, my heart rate accelerated. It’s really awesome, because you get to go out there with your best friends and your sisters and fight for something bigger than yourselves. To be able to represent this university is such an honor and to be able to do it for the last time, it’s crazy.” 

On the boost Nusz Park has given the program… “All the teams before us paved the way so we get to have the benefit of having this beautiful stadium. It’s awesome to be able to call this home and to show the alumni that come back, say ‘hey, look at what you all helped us do.’ Every single day we just smile and say, ‘hey, that’s our home.’” 

Sr. 3B Caroline Seitz 

On getting the offense back on track after last season  "You never know if it was mental or physical, but I think the team has a great mindset this year. We’re looking phenomenal in the box. Morgan Bell has looked better than she ever has and Madison Cousineau, who is a sophomore, looks just great in the box. Everyone is having a great mindset and is just ready to go into the year dominating. I think last year, we learned from it, but we’re not going to dwell on it. We’re going to get better.”

 On the boost Nusz Park has given the program… "It made everything sweeter and will help this program in the long run in so many ways. We got to host the SEC Tournament, because we had a huge, beautiful, nice stadium and that’s not something that everyone in their four years gets to do. So that was a cool experience and I’ll never forget that. Just having a big, huge stadium makes you feel grateful and it makes you want to win more for this university and pay back your dues for everything this university has done for us.”

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