STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - With the Bulldog Kickoff Classic and the 2018 season just three days away, the Mississippi State softball program held its annual media day at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.
Head coach Vann Stuedeman, senior infielder Morgan Bell and senior pitcher Holly Ward addressed the media on Tuesday, answering questions ranging from the potential of the newcomers to this weekend’s competition at the Bulldog Kickoff Classic.
A full transcript of today’s media session is below.
Stuedeman and the Bulldogs open their season Friday, Feb. 9 against Mississippi Valley State (3 p.m. CT) and Omaha (5:30 p.m. CT). MSU will then face off against Missouri State on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m. CT. The field will then be seeded to determine the remaining weekend schedule. All of Friday and Saturday’s contests will be streamed on the SEC Network + via WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app. Admission is free to all fans.
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Head Coach Vann Stuedeman
“Thank you all for being here. This is Vanntastic. I’m impressed and very thankful for you all being here. Softball at Nusz Park is kicking off here on Friday, and we are fired up. We’ve got a great mix of old and new, seniority and freshmen punches. I’m looking forward to seeing these girls take over. We’ve been led by Alexis Silkwood, Caroline Seitz and Amanda Ivy for a long time. The juniors that are now seniors are getting to step into that role now. I’m excited to see them shine. I’m proud of the work they have put in with their leadership skills. We have nine freshmen and a tenth new person who’s a transfer, so these seniors and juniors have done a great job of getting those kids in our culture. They have led those kids in the direction that Bulldog softball is to be played. They’ve done a great job of being an extension of the coaching staff. I’m proud of their leadership skills, and I’m ready to see them get out and get the spotlight.”
On the potential of this team this season…
“We will be heavily relying on two senior pitchers, Holly Ward and Cassidy Knudsen. We’re replacing Alexis Silkwood, who pitched 153 innings, so we will need to eat that up. It is really on Holly to decide how good we are going to be. Morgan Bell will have to pick up for Caroline Seitz and Olivia Golden. We don’t need to have just one Caroline Seitz. If everyone in the lineup increases two or three RBIs, we cover through a spread. We can all pitch in just a little bit and eat up the RBIs we were getting from Caroline. In the circle, we have two seniors and three newcomers: a redshirt sophomore, sophomore transfer and a true freshman. It’s going to be Vann-style and Bulldog-style softball-- pitch by committee. I think our team is as good as anyone out there. Our league is incredible. We sent all 13 teams to the NCAA playoffs last year. I don’t see a drop off this year. I see everyone returning. On any given day, we can win against any given opponent.”
On preparing newcomers…
“We’ve relied a lot on these juniors and seniors. This group of juniors and seniors has had interesting careers in that they’ve played behind a lot of people here. The junior class came in very scared, so as juniors they have really grown. It has impressed me every day. They do something to show how much they’ve grown up. I’ve relied on this junior and senior class to say to these freshmen, who are not scared, ‘seize the moment and don’t wait like we did’. You can say it all you want, but it’s impactful when it comes from girls like Kat Moore and Sarai Nui. The thing about softball in the last five years is it has blown up on TV. With the SEC Network and ESPN, it’s awesome and such a great venue. The kids coming in have watched people on TV. This is real and making a huge impact. That is something new to me that we’re trying to battle. Those junior kids had to believe they were as good as the kids they were seeing on TV. The freshmen class has played on TV. They’ve put the summer league games on TV. You’re able to recruit on the computer now. In summer ball, these newcomers are getting the exposure, so they are more prepared for the college frenzy. I think you will be surprised. We have some very good freshmen.“
Sr. RHP Holly Ward
On taking on more responsibility at the pitcher’s mound…
“We’re really excited. Like Vann said we really focus on a staff. It’s just like previous years, we’re just going to continue to roll with the punches. We all play a major role, so we’re just really excited for that.”
On advice to new pitchers…
“We are all just excited, and we’re ready. The advice that I give them would be that to know that you can. And that’s something that I’ve learned from pitching in the SEC and being a senior. If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. Just go out there and know you can and dominate the best you can.”