#31 Mississippi State Softball 2014 Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #31
Conference Rank: #10 SEC
#31 Mississippi State Softball 2014 Preview
Mississippi State Team Page


There is much to be optimistic about in Starkville, with the Bulldogs coming off two consecutive 33-24 seasons complete with NCAA tournament appearances. A hearty one-third of the roster is seniors, positioning Mississippi State to have the experience and leadership needed to take the next step. Coach Vann Steudeman enters her third season with the ‘Dogs with the challenge of improving on an 8-16 conference record, although 2013 saw wins over Florida, LSU and Alabama. If those wins were a harbinger, MSU fans can get excited about 2014. Steudeman’s troops will need to be more consistent this year considering 2013 saw win streaks of nine, six, and four games while suffering through losing streaks of six and four games. The Bulldogs raced to a 15-5 record to start last season, but limped to the finish with only three wins in their final ten games, including a 3rd place finish in the NCAA Regional.

2013: 33-24, 8-16
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Vann Stuedeman

Field Players:
The bulk of the lineup returns with the top four hitters from 2013 now seniors. Catcher Sam Lenahan, Logan Foulks (3B/C), outfielder Jessica Offutt and second baseman Heidi Shape combined for a .308 batting average and totaled 27 home runs to go along with 120 runs batted in. Sophomore Loryn Nichols hit just .250, but swiped 23 bases in 25 attempts. Several other position players who saw significant playing time also return. Katie Gentle transfers in following a stellar junior college career to play the outfield, and adds speed on the bases and power at the plate (74 RBI, 16 HR, 27 stolen bases in 2013 National JUCO Championship campaign.) Six Freshmen add depth and will fight for time between the lines.

Alison Owen proved to be a warrior last year, tossing almost 200 innings, and will no doubt be in the circle for most “big” games this season. She has the talent (1.97 ERA, 250 K/22 BB) and experience to carry the Bulldogs into a Super Regional, but will need to cut down on giving up the long ball, as she yielded 26 homers last year. Sophomore Jacey Punches and Senior Shana Sherrod return in supporting pitching roles, with depth added by freshmen lefties Mackenzie Toler and Alexis Silkwood.

Who to Watch:
Can Lenahan, Foulks, Offutt and the rest of the offense balance hitting for average and stroking the long ball again? Can Gentle transition from junior college to the rough-and-tumble SEC? Seven seniors should prove valuable to the all important team chemistry puzzle with six freshmen added to this year’s roster. Confidence will be a key to the Bulldogs success or failure, but the offense, pitching and defense should all be improved over the 2013 edition in Starkville.

Final Projection:
This could easily be a breakout year for MSU-all the pieces are in place for a deeper run in the post-season. Look for the Bulldogs to again be invited to the dance, but will need a higher seed to advance past the Regionals.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Logan Foulks, 3B, 171
Hits: Logan Foulks, 3B, 53
Home Runs: Logan Foulks, 3B, 13
RBIs: Sam Lenahan, C, 40
Runs: Sam Lenahan, C, 35
Stolen Bases: Loryn Nichols, OF, 23

Wins: Alison Owen, P, 17
Innings Pitched: Alison Owen, P, 198.2
Strikeouts: Alison Owen, P, 250
Saves: Alison Owen, P, 5


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