STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Having developed some of the greatest hitters in Mississippi State history as an assistant coach, Samantha Ricketts added another accolade on Thursday as she was officially introduced as the Bulldogs’ sixth head softball coach at a press conference on campus.
Ricketts, who was All-American player at Oklahoma, served as MSU’s assistant coach from 2015-18 focusing on hitting and recruiting before being promoted to associate head coach on July 30, 2018. The San Jose, California, native has been a part of one Women’s College World Series appearance, six NCAA Regional berths and two NCAA Super Regional appearances during her coaching career.
“I think for me my biggest goal is that I want to be a consistent presence for this team,” Ricketts said Thursday. “The fact that I’ve been there with them, and everything that we have been through especially these past two years with Alex Wilcox who will also be a huge part. I knew her, I coached her and I loved her. I want us to continue to do everything that we’ve done for her in this program to represent what Mississippi State softball was to her, and that we continue to represent Alex and her legacy across the softball world as well.”
A transcript from Thursday’s press conference is below:
Director of Athletics John Cohen
“I’ll make this quick because I want to get the star of the show up here as soon as possible. As we went through this process, I have to admit to all of you that I really did not have a full realization of what the Ricketts name means in college softball from coast-to-coast. As we talked to coaches, as we talked to people who cover college softball and as we went around the country and talked to all the experts in that sport – they kept talking about how powerful this last name Ricketts is. Once you really look into what Samantha [Ricketts] and her family have done this sport, it is pretty remarkable.
“Another big issue for us or something that is compelling to me was the amount of offensive success we have had under Samantha at Mississippi State. We had three first-team All-SEC players for the first time in school history. It became evident to me that, again, through a lot of research and analysis that we had one of the best offenses in the Southeastern Conference and in the country. Samantha Ricketts was obviously a huge part of that. She was the person who engineered that.”
“We were looking for someone who had a history of consistent excellence both on and off the field. Everyone we talked to in our softball program, around our softball program and around the country, talked about the consistent excellence of Samantha Ricketts. We were looking for someone who would lead our softball program by example. Again, we feel like Samantha really lead in this area as well in talking to players, talking to staff and talking to softball experts around the country.”
“I had the opportunity to sit down for an extended amount of time and just ask, ‘If given this opportunity, what was Coach Ricketts vision for the future of this program?’ I was incredibly impressed with how organized she was and how to the point she was with what she wanted to do with the future of this program. So, all of those things, led us to the decision of hiring Samantha Ricketts. We are so excited about having her as our head softball coach.”
“Now, it is my privilege to introduce our next head softball coach at Mississippi State University, Samantha Ricketts.”
Head Coach Samantha Ricketts
“This is a really exciting time for me, and I really appreciate everyone taking time out of their day to be here. I just want to start out by thanking John [Cohen], by thanking Dr. [Mark] Keenum and the search committee – Jared Benko, Leah Beasley, Mike Richey and Ann Carr. For them to really see my vision and what this program can be and where I would like to take it.”
“Also, I want to thank my players and [Jessica] Cooley for being here. Already have a good relationship here which is going to be a good factor moving forward for us. I’m really excited for the direction we have for this program. Coach [Tyler] Bratton is staying on board as well. With us, I think we accomplished a lot of firsts in the recent years here. I know we can continue on these and have a lot more firsts down the road for Mississippi State softball.”
“This is a unique opportunity. I don’t have to get to know the team again. I don’t have to go out and find my own recruits because I recruited these girls. I know them. It’s a chance for us to use that bond we have and that trust we have to move forward with everything we’ve done. We have a lot of good recruits coming in and a good signing class. That’s where Coach Bratton and I have been is out in California getting in front of these girls. Really excited about the future and really excited about the players we have on this team now and the ones coming in.”
“We have a lot of strengths returning. Obviously, like John [Cohen] said, we have our ‘Thunder and Lightning’ coming back. Mia Davidson and Fa Leilua hitting a lot of home runs for us. Emily Williams returning along with the rest of our pitching staff and just really excited about what they can do. Candace Denis is coming back, and she hit .338 for our offense last year. Montana Davidson was one of our top five hitters in conference play. We have a lot of good strengths and cores we have returning to this team and a lot of exciting, young talent that also will be with us.”
“Our incoming class, I’m really excited about them. That’s kind of what my vision is for the recruiting of this program. They’re athletes. They can pitch, and the pitchers also hit. They can run, they’re strong, they’re fast and really just an all-around athlete. That’s the type of player I want to bring into Mississippi State. I think you have specialty positions such as catching and pitching, but the more athletic we can be in our recruiting classes and bringing in our players, the better this program is going to be. I plan to continue this focus in our recruiting as well as a big piece of it is obviously is going to be the pitching side of it. Right now, my focus is getting the best pitching coach possible that I can. I’ve been out in California talking to a few. I’ve had a lot of interesting candidates, and I want to bring in the best pitching coach out there. Someone who will help revive our pitching staff, and someone who really can take us to the next level especially in the SEC.”
“On the field, you’ll see we’re going to continue to keep Coach Bratton at third base. He does a great job there. We communicate very well about our offensive plans in games and what that strategy will be. I think for us practice-wise our focus is going to be a lot more data driven using video, using technology and all these things that we have to really help us improve our learning curve. That we can moving forward and be more data-driven in our analysis so that we can see where we are and where we need to be. Coach Stephanie Mock and I have a really good vision with that as well from the weight room perspective. How we can use numbers, data and analysis, and really help these girls develop from an objective side so they can see what their numbers are at and what they need to be down the road. That’s going to be a big piece for us as well as in the weight room and on the field – just really using a lot of data and a lot of analytics with types of research like that.”
“I think for me my biggest goal is that I want to be a consistent presence for this team. The fact that I’ve been there with them, and everything that we have been through especially these past two years with Alex Wilcox who will also be a huge part. I knew her, I coached her and I loved her. I want us to continue to do everything that we’ve done for her in this program to represent what Mississippi State softball was to her, and that we continue to represent Alex and her legacy across the softball world as well. That’s a big part.”
“I want to be a strong, female role model for these girls, a stable presence. Someone they know they can come to, and that they have a consistent leader in. I want to teach them how to be adults. How to grow up and how to be a strong, empowered woman when they leave here. That’s a huge piece of why I am the way I am. From my coaches and all the support that I’ve had from my family and from the University of Oklahoma, that’s what I want to start with and really build our foundation off of from day one. I want these girls to leave here saying they had the best four years of their life at Mississippi State. They enjoyed every minute of it, or the two years or the three years, whatever they had left. That they loved Mississippi State. They loved the program and their teammates. That it’s something they can always look back on and remember as the greatest four years of their careers.”
“I know I’m excited. We have a lot of work to do starting with the pitching coach right now, but we have a good plan moving forward. I like to be organized, and I like to have a plan. I’ve got a lot of things that we’re working for right now but some really good ideas and prospects out there. I know we have a lot of really good people in my corner and in this university that are going to be willing to help. They’ve already reached out and are helping me along the way. I’m ready to get started, and I’ve already got started really too. I just really appreciate this opportunity, and I’m just ready to go.”