With the beginning of the 2020 Mississippi State softball season, the Bulldogs are moving into a new era and on from Vann Stuedeman, who was arguably the most successful coach in program history.
Despite the fact that Mississippi State made it to the NCAA Tournament more times under Stuedeman than any other coach in program history, MSU has moved on to a new coach, Samantha Ricketts, as it entered into a new decade.
Stuedeman inherited a program that had seen a solid amount of success in her predecessor’s time in Starkville and then elevated it beyond that. Now Ricketts is being asked to do the same.
During Jay Miller’s time leading the Bulldogs, Miller led the Bulldogs to six NCAA Regionals. But the program hit a slump during his final few seasons in Starkville and Miller was let go. He was then replaced by Stuedeman who was able to take the program and sustain success throughout her time there.
While Stuedeman never broke the 40-win mark in any of her seasons as MSU’s head coach, her teams saw a more consistent level of success, winning at least 33 games in seven of Stuedeman’s eight seasons coaching in Starkville. The Bulldogs consistently made it back to the NCAA Tournament and appeared poised to make a big splash at various different points in her career.
But Stuedeman’s teams never seemed to break through.
They reached a ceiling and couldn’t ever surpass that. It felt like whenever her teams had dominant pitchers, they simply couldn’t get enough big hits. When Stuedeman’s teams had great hitting, the pitching just wasn’t good enough to match. And despite hot starts at the beginning of the year, Mississippi State couldn’t make it deep into the SEC Tournament or beyond the Regional Round of the NCAA Tournament.
After eight seasons, she finished her time in Starkville with 7 NCAA Regional Appearances (the most in school history), an overall record of 276-189 (second most wins in school history), and an SEC record of 69-127.
There’s a very real chance that Ricketts can continue to build upon the foundation that Stuedeman put in place. There’s even a chance that Ricketts can reach new heights with this Mississippi State softball program, and that has to be what Mississippi State fans are hoping for with their new head coach.
But any success that Ricketts has shouldn’t diminish the impact that Stuedeman has had on the Mississippi State softball program. Despite the fact that Stuedeman never made it beyond a regional, her success and the program that she has built in Starkville should be her legacy.