Since being hired as the Mississippi State softball head coach on Thursday, June 23, 2011, Vann Stuedeman has invigorated the Bulldog program. In three seasons, the Vestavia Hills, Ala., native has led the squad to three consecutive NCAA Tournament trips and 33 or more wins each campaign.
After becoming the winningest first-year head coach in school history (.579/33-24 record) in 2012, Stuedeman followed up with another 33-24 campaign and a second-straight NCAA Tournament bid in 2013. The 2013 Bulldogs were named an Easton Team of the Year, joining Women’s College World Series participants Florida and Texas.
Stuedeman’s 2014 edition really took off, earning a program third-best 39 victories and an MSU second-best eight wins against ranked opponents. The Bulldogs made three-straight NCAA trips for the first time since 2007-09 and had three consecutive 30-win seasons for the first time since 1998-2008.
Included in last spring’s 39 victories were three-straight victories against top-five clubs with back-to-back wins against No. 3/2 Alabama on April 12-13 and a 2-0 triumph at No. 4/4 Tennessee on April 18. It was the first time the Bulldogs had won three consecutive games against ranked foes since taking seven straight from April 9-May 13, 2004, and the first time ever winning three straight against top-five opponents.
During the campaign, Stuedeman guided her squad to four wins versus top-five opponents in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll. Entering the year, the Bulldogs had won five games in program history versus top-five opponents.
Stuedeman’s 2014 team also earned three-straight Southeastern Conference series wins for the first time since April 6-21, 2012. The club started off on fire, winning 15-straight games, one game shy of the longest season-opening victory streak in program history.
Individually, Stuedeman helped Caroline Seitz to selections as a Top 25 Finalist for the inaugural NFCA Freshman of the Year Award and NFCA All-South Region First Team honors. Seitz became the sixth freshman in program history to earn all-region honors, the initial under Stuedeman and the first since Ka’ili Smith in 2009.
Seitz was joined by Alexis Silkwood on the SEC All-Freshman Team. The two selections are tied for the most in a year in MSU history.
Silkwood used Stuedeman’s guidance in the pitching circle to turn in one of the most successful rookie campaigns in program history. Silkwood set the MSU freshman record for strikeouts in a season with 167 and set the rookie single-game record with 13 whiffs against Texas Southern in the NCAA Tournament.
Following two impressive outings at No. 4/4 Tennessee, Silkwood was named the April 21 SEC Pitcher of the Week as well as the Feb. 17 and March 3 SEC Freshman of the Week. Alison Owen was also tabbed as the April 14 SEC Pitcher of the Week.
The two SEC Pitcher of the Week awards marked the third-straight year with such an honoree, the longest stretch for the program since 2001-04.
Prior to Stuedeman taking over the program in 2012, MSU had seven total SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. In the three-year Stuedeman era, the Bulldogs have won five. The 2014 Bulldogs’ four total SEC weekly honors are tied with the 2008 and 2004 squads for the second most in program history.
During 2013, Owen’s first year on the active roster, she became the first pitcher in school history to receive SEC Pitcher of the Week honors in consecutive weeks, earning the nods on Feb. 25 and March 4. Owen established the single-game Mississippi State record for strikeouts with 16 against SIU-Edwardsville on Feb. 24 and was selected as the March 5 CollegeSportsMadness.com National Pitcher of the Week.
Stuedeman guided the pitching staff to a pair of no-hitters in 2013, the most by the program in a year since tossing four in 2006.
Offensively, Stuedeman’s aggressive approach helped the team tie the program record for stolen bases per game with 2.00 and total the second-most swipes in a campaign in MSU history with 114. The approach at the plate translated into a program-record 51 home runs, besting the previous mark by four.
Stuedeman helped Owen earn a spot on the NFCA All-South Region Second Team at the end of the year. Owen was joined on the squad by Logan Foulks and Sam Lenahan. It was only the fourth time in program history having three or more selections.
The pitching development and philosophies Stuedeman brought from the University of Alabama, where she was known as a pitching genius in 11 years as the Crimson Tide pitching coach, paid huge dividends during her initial season. She took a school record-high 4.90 earned-run average from 2011 and with the same group of five pitchers, cut the ERA to 2.88 in 2012. Stuedeman also helped the pitching staff improve from 2011 to 2012 in: wins (24 to 33), complete games (12 to 20), no-hitters (zero to one), hits allowed (435 to 310), runs allowed (313 to 194), strikeouts (242 to 358), home runs allowed (50 to 27) and opponent batting average (.300 to .224).
Individually, Stuedeman coached Stephanie Becker to a career year. Against eventual Women’s College World Series participant South Florida, Stuedeman called her 24th career no-hitter. Later in the year, Becker became the first Bulldog pitcher since Stephanie Comeaux in 2006 to be named SEC Pitcher of the Week after picking up three conference victories in a series sweep versus Kentucky.
Stuedeman also focused heavily on improving the defense. She succeeded, increasing the Bulldogs’ fielding percentage from 2011 to 2012 by nine points (.954 to .963). Her staff gave up 154 earned runs in 2012, almost 100 fewer than the previous spring.
In 2012, Stuedeman took MSU to its first NCAA Tournament since 2009, she became one of only two first-time head coaches to make the field of 64. With 33 overall wins, Stuedeman guided MSU to its first 30-win season since 2008, despite having the fourth-toughest strength of schedule in the nation.
Fully buying into Stuedeman’s sytem paid dividends at the end of the year, when the Bulldogs won 14 of their last 20 contests, including a 12-game winning streak from April 10 - May 4, 2012.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Stuedeman led the Bulldogs to their 12th Southeastern Conference Tournament berth with 12 SEC wins, the most for MSU since 2008. For the first time since 2001, MSU swept back-to-back three-game series and won six consecutive conference games.
Outside the SEC, Stuedeman was dominant. Mississippi State won 21 non-conference games and recorded 13-straight non-conference triumphs. It was the longest streak since a school-record 16-consecutive contests to begin the 2006 season.
On the road, the 2012 Bulldogs broke the school record for true road wins in a season with number 13 coming at Auburn on May 4, 2012. The eight SEC road wins were the most for the Bulldogs since eight in 2001.
Within Mississippi, Stuedeman has shined brightest. Studeman has yet to lose to an in-state foe during her tenure, including six-straight wins against Ole Miss.
One of the key principles under Studeman has been having success in the late innings. The 2012 club outscored opponents 64-31 after the fifth. State went 9-7 in one-run games, its best winning percentage in one-run games since 2002. The Bulldogs were unbeaten when leading late during the year, finishing 21-0 when ahead after the fifth inning.
Offensively in her first year, Stuedeman oversaw a lineup that set a then-school record for single-season walks (202), while finishing in the top 10 in runs, home runs, slugging percentage and stolen bases. Stuedeman coached MSU’s first SEC Player of the Week since 2010, two SEC Players of the Week in the same season for the first time since 2004 and MSU’s second National Player of the Week.
Prior to her arrival in Starkville, Stuedeman helped Alabama claim three SEC regular-season titles en route to reaching the Women’s College World Series six times.
As an assistant coach since 2001, Stuedeman helped the Crimson Tide go 579-150 from 2000-11 (.794), including a sparkling 243-70 record inside the SEC. Stuedeman anchored a staff that had an ERA under 2.00 in eight of her 11 campaigns, struck out an average of 485 batters per season and held opponents scoreless in 221 games. The 2011 staff led the SEC in ERA, giving Stuedeman’s staff a top-20 ERA nationally in five of the previous six seasons before she left Alabama.
Stuedeman coached six All-American pitchers with 11 All-America and All-SEC honors while in Tuscaloosa. Under her instruction, Tide pitchers registered 23 no-hitters, including three perfect games. Three times Stuedeman coached the SEC Pitcher of the Year, while racking up 19 SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. She also coached two SEC Freshman of the Year and one SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
In 2011, Stuedeman tutored the pitching staff to a 1.69 ERA, a 53-10 record and third-place finish at the Women’s College World Series. The staff included a pair of All-American pitchers in Kelsi Dunne and Jackie Traina. Dunne, a volunteer assistant coach at Mississippi State in 2012, capped her career with a 29-5 record and a 1.42 ERA. The right-hander struck out 331 batters and held opponents to a school-record .146 average. Dunne also tossed three no-hitters and posted 11 shutouts. Traina went 19-5 with a 1.70 ERA, adding 190 strikeouts in 156.1 innings with two no-hitters, three shutouts and four saves.
Prior to joining Alabama, Stuedeman coached at West Alabama, Alabama-Huntsville and East Limestone High School. The Birmingham, Ala., area native graduated in 1994 from Huntingdon College, where she helped the Hawks to two third-place finishes at the national tournament (1992 and 1994). The 1994 All-American was inducted into her alma mater’s Hall of Fame on Oct. 8, 2011.
Stuedeman served as a graduate assistant at the University of West Alabama from 1995-96 while earning her master’s degree in elementary education, helping lead the team to the Gulf South Conference championship in 1995 while the team’s head coach was away from the team on maternity leave. The championship and winning season was the first in the ’90s for the West Alabama program.
After spending two seasons at UWA, Stuedeman went to the University of Alabama-Huntsville for three years as an assistant for her sister, Les Stuedeman, and worked with pitchers and outfielders. During her stint, the UAH pitching staff ranked in the top five in Division II in ERA. She helped lead the program to two Gulf South Conference championships, three NCAA Regional appearances and a trip to the 1999 Division II National Tournament. She was also part of the staff that was named South Region Coaching Staff of the Year in 1999.
She then accepted the head coaching position at East Limestone High School, in Athens, Ala., where she led the team to its first winning season since 1994.
STUEDEMAN'S PITCHERS BY THE NUMBERS
THE VANN STUEDEMAN FILE