It has been a “Vanntastic” two seasons for head coach Vann Stuedeman at Mississippi State. On Thursday, June 23, 2011, MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin announced Stuedeman as its new softball coach. In two seasons, the Vestavia Hills, Ala., native has led the squad to consecutive NCAA Tournament trips and 33 wins in back-to-back campaigns.
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. The Bulldogs capped the year with a selection as an Easton Team of the Year, joining Women’s College World Series participants Florida and Texas, and consecutive 30-win seasons for the first time since 1998-2008.
During the 2013 campaign, MSU snapped a trio of Southeastern Conference losing streaks, breaking a 27-game skid against Alabama, a 21-game streak versus LSU and a 17-game slump against Florida. The Bulldogs’ overall nine-game winning streak from Feb. 23-March 6 was tied for the seventh longest in program history and the five-game Southeastern Conference winning streak from April 7-19 was tied for the sixth best in program history.
The pitching development and philosophies Stuedeman brought over 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 in 2013. Junior Alison Owen became the first pitcher in school history to receive Southeastern Conference Softball 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, 2013. Owen, the March 5 CollegeSportsMadness.com National Pitcher of the Week for March 5, is the third player in program history to earn a national weekly honor and enters her senior year holding the top three single-game whiff marks in program history with 16, 15 and 14, all recorded in 2013.
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. Owen twirled the first against Fordham on March 2 and Stephanie Becker tossed the other versus Ole Miss on April 14.
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 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-South Region Second Team at the end of the year. Owen was joined on the squad by juniors Logan Foulks and Sam Lenahan, the most Bulldogs on the honor squad since 2009 and only the fourth time in program history having three or more selections.
With her pitching roots, Stuedeman made her biggest impact during her first year at the MSU helm inside the circle. 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. 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). The Bulldogs shut out opponents five times, including one on the road in the SEC for the first time in more than four years.
Individually, Stuedeman coached staff ace Becker to a career year. Going up 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. Becker finished the weekend with a 2.15 ERA and 15-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In her last nine appearances of 2012, Becker was guided by Stuedeman to a perfect 4-0 record, a microscopic 0.55 ERA in 25.2 innings and a 22-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
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). In the outfield, MSU cut down on open spaces and improved from a SEC-high 58 doubles allowed in 2011 to a much lower mark of 39 two-baggers surrendered. Overall, Stuedeman’s staff gave up only 154 earned runs in 2012, almost 100 fewer than the previous spring.
From a historical standpoint, Stuedeman accomplished a great deal in her first spring at the helm of the MSU softball team. With Stuedeman taking 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. More than half (18) of the 33 victories were of the come-from-behind variety.
Thirteen of the team’s 33 wins came in the month of April (13-2), making it the winningest April in school history. Starkville’s Team won 14 of its last 20 games to end the season, including a 12-game winning streak from April 10 - May 4, 2012. The stretch was the Bulldogs’ third-longest overall winning streak in school history.
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. Two of those six wins were on national television.
Outside the SEC, Stuedeman was dominant. Mississippi State won 21 non-conference games, its most since 2008 (28). State’s 13-straight non-conference triumphs was its longest streak since MSU won a school-record 16-consecutive contests to begin the 2006 season. In midweek games alone, MSU went a flawless 8-0 against out-of-league foes.
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. State had two five-game road winning streaks, its longest road winning streaks since taking eight-straight from March 27 - April 19, 2001. The eight SEC road wins were the most for the Bulldogs since eight in 2001.
Within the state of Mississippi, Stuedeman has shined brightest. For the first time since 1998, the Maroon and White went undefeated (8-0) against in-state clubs in 2012. Studeman has yet to lose to an in-state foe during her tenure, including six-straight wins against Ole Miss.
With late innings being her innings, the fifth head softball coach in school history made sure her team played best in 2012 when it counted most, outscoring opponents 64-31 after the fifth. State went 9-7 in one-run games, its best winning percentage in one-run games since 2002. Three of those nine wins came in a row, the first time accomplishing the feat since since a 2007 series sweep of South Carolina. The Bulldogs did not get beaten when leading late all year, finishing 21-0 when ahead after the fifth inning. Of course, Stuedeman preferred not to keep it close, as MSU’s eight run-rule victories were the program’s most since the 2008 team tallied 13.
Offensively in her first year at MSU, 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. On the bases, MSU finished 22nd in the country in stolen bases per game (1.61). As a result of the offensive production, 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 the Alabama Crimson Tide 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 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. A native of Birmingham, Ala., she 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.
VANN'S PITCHERS BY THE NUMBERS
23 ............. No Hitters
19 ............. SEC Pitchers of the Week
14 ............. All-South Region Honors
11 ............. All-America Honors
11 ............. All-SEC Honors
7 ................ Straight Seasons w/AA Honor
5................. National Players of the Week
3 ................ SEC Pitchers of the Year
3................. Perfect Games
2................. SEC Freshman of the Year
1 ................ SEC Tournament MVP
THE VANN STUEDEMAN FILE
Birthdate: Sept. 11, 1972 in Birmingham, Ala.
Hometown: Vestavia Hills, Ala.
Education: Bachelor of Accounting, Huntingdon College, 1994
Master's in Elementary Education, West Alabama, 1996
Hired as Head Coach: June 23, 2011
Graduate Assistant, West Alabama, 1995-96
Assistant Coach, Alabama-Huntsville, 1997-99
Head Coach, East Limestone County HS, 1999-2000
Assistant Coach, Alabama, 2000-11
Head Coach, Mississippi State, 2011-Present
Vestavia Hills HS, 1986-90
Huntington College, 1991-94
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT VANN STUEDEMAN
"You don't have to spend much time with Vann Stuedeman to understand how passionate the first-year leader is about her new program. It's an energy that transcends every fiber of her being and it's hard to imagine that her team wouldn't be successful. It's more than a job to Stuedeman, it appears to be her calling. It extends beyond a job and into every aspect of her life." - Sean Cartell, SEC Digital Network
"I'm having trouble understanding as a parent how you wouldn't be drawn to Vann if she came into your living room and said, 'I want your daughter to come play for me.' She has the personality to not only adapt to the kids in this generation, but also give comfort to the parents. When parents decide which coach to have their daughter play softball under, I can't think of a logical reason why Vann wouldn't be high on that list." - Matthew Stevens, Commercial Dispatch
"I have not heard anyone talk about Vann Stuedeman without people talking about how excited and motivated they are by her. She's not just someone who has a lot of energy that people like; she's going to be a great coach. If I had a daughter, Vann would be at the top of the list of people I'd trust to coach my daughter." - Bob Carskadon, Bulldog Sports Radio
"Watching Stuedeman work a room, it is easy to be impressed. She believes she is the right coach, the right recruiter and the right leader to help MSU climb the ladder in the Southeastern Conference." - Adam Minichino, Commercial Dispatch
"She exudes energy. There is nothing about her that doesn't draw people in to her. We needed someone with passion; we needed someone who had a lot of energy. We want someone who is going to be very committed to our institution, our young ladies and our program. I think anybody can see that in Vann." - Ann Carr, Senior Associate A.D./Women's Sports, Student-Athlete Services
"Sometimes a team just needs something to get them headed in the right direction. Whether it is a great X's and O's coach or a shot of enthusiasm there is usually something missing. Mississippi State feels like they found the missing piece of their softball puzzle when they hired Vann Stuedeman to lead the Bulldogs in the right direction." - John Farley, BulldawgJunction.com
"I'm not sure if there's a better all-around coach than Vann Stuedeman." - Jonathan Barden, Co-Host of The Sports Zone TV Show
"I just love Coach Steudeman's drive and passion. She loves the game like we do. She is the kind of coach that makes you want to work harder for her. MSU couldn't have made a better choice. She has helped me with her knowledge of the game. Her pitch calling will be huge for us. She is teaching me what pitches to call in certain situations and that will help me in the long run. I think we can make it to the World Series. Coach has all the tools to get us there. Our future is very bright. Coach Steudeman will make us one of the best programs in the country." - Sam Lenahan, 2011 All-SEC Freshman Catcher
"Coach Vann is awesome. The whole mental aspect around here has changed. She has changed the attitude here and it's been so great. Coach Stuedeman just has this unbelievable drive. She is very goal oriented. She is so determined to succeed. Her enthusiasm just rubs off on you. She has taught me personally the whole mental part of pitching. She is very knowledgeable about pitching, but more than just the pitches and how to throw them. She has taught me to stay tough, mentally. She has me forgetting about the last pitch if it doesn't go my way and focus on the next pitch. She has been great for me individually as well." - Stephanie Becker, MSU Pitcher
"Coach Stuedeman has so much energy. She speaks her mind and tells you what she thinks. If something needs to be addressed, she doesn't wait until the end of the inning. She addresses it right away. She is very aggressive and has a very confident voice. She has taught me to never be passive - always go for it." - Ka'ili Smith, MSU First Baseman
"Coach Steudeman is so enthusiastic. She brings back that fire you had when you were a kid playing the game. She is teaching us mental aspects of the game that we never knew existed. She is able to talk to each pitcher in a way that it sticks, and that we just get it." - Shana Sherrod, MSU Pitcher
"Vann has been the most positive change. Like I said, I love to win and these coaches bring that. They don't want to fail and they are going to make sure we succeed. Coach Vann hates to lose. She has given me my confidence back. I know I can go out in the circle and win now. She has helped me so much with my mental game." - Kylie Vry, MSU Pitcher
"The one thing about Vann is she wants to be the best. I will do anything to win. That's the attitude she has as well. She pushes us and cares about us. She challenges me personally and pushes me. I am so excited. The morale of our team is so much better. We are all working hard for a common goal, Oklahoma City." - Brittany Bell, MSU Outfielder