STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State softball team opens the season in less than two weeks, and the coaches and players are enjoying preparing to get ready for the campaign.
The Bulldogs took the next step Saturday and Sunday, playing the first two of four intrasquad scrimmages.
"I think we made a lot of strides over the weekend," assistant coach Beth Mullins said of the weekend workouts. "From Saturday to Sunday we made huge adjustments. We asked our players to have better two-strike approaches, throws and bunts and they did all three of those."
Having student-athletes buy into the process and improve daily is important for this young team, a group that includes six freshmen who have yet to play an official college softball game.
"The adjustments are huge," Mullins said. "We always say you have to get big on Sunday. Whoever can win on Sunday has stamina and is going to win a lot of ballgames. The fact that they had an entire game Saturday and brought it all again Sunday is a huge positive outlook for us."
In addition to the six true freshmen, the Bulldogs welcome back seven seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and redshirt freshman Olivia Golden. Three returning players earned National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-South Region Second Team honors last season as seniors Logan Foulks, Sam Lenahan and Alison Owen received the accolades.
"We worked a lot on staying in the process and playing the game," junior Julia Echols said of the team’s play during the weekend’s scrimmages. “We’re playing these scrimmages just like we will our home opener. We turned in a lot of quality at-bats and our pitchers looked good.”
The quality at-bats and innings thrown came from a variety of sources and the depth of the 2014 squad is one of the reasons for excitement among the coaches and players.
"We have a lot of new kids and that’s super exciting," Echols said. "It’s like a brand new team for the new year. All of the upperclassmen are just trying to bring them in and teach them the culture of this team – striving to be selfless, excellent, competitive and that we’re fighters.
“We’re already meshing and it looks like we’ve been playing together for years, which is awesome."
Freshman pitcher Alexis Silkwood is quick to point to senior catchers Foulks and Lenahan as a key reason for the success inside the circle.
"We have great leadership behind the plate," Silkwood said on thinking about playing in her first game. "We implemented a new numbering system and Sam took me under her wing and I couldn’t have done it without her. You can’t have a good pitcher without a good catcher. To have those seniors back there is very comforting."
With the season 11 days away, Mullins knows the team must remain focused throughout the final workouts before the campaign begins.
“We want to get better every single day,” Mullins said. “We want to be excellent, selfless and competitive in everything we do. If we do that and continue to get better, better and better every single day, we’ll be ready for that first game. We’re taking it one day at a time and not trying to look any further ahead than that.”
Mississippi State opens the campaign on Feb. 7 with 3 and 5:30 p.m. CT contests versus Mississippi Valley State and Northern Kentucky, respectively. MSU will be home the entire weekend hosting the Bulldog Kickoff Classic.