By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Vann Stuedeman enjoyed her time as an ESPN analyst last year, but she’d just as soon not have that gig again.
She’d rather her Mississippi State team play beyond the NCAA regional round. The Lady Bulldogs open tournament play Friday in Mobile, Ala., against Florida State at 3:30 p.m.
Host South Alabama opens against Mississippi Valley State.
Stuedeman has taken MSU to the NCAAs in each of her first two seasons. Last year, the Lady Bulldogs lost in the Eugene (Ore.) Regional, and then Stuedeman was asked to work as an analyst for ESPN during the super regionals.
“They have not contacted me again,” she said. “I’m hoping that they don’t have that opportunity.”
MSU (32-22) is hoping to use lessons from last year’s experience to help it go farther this time. Second baseman Heidi Shape, who’s hitting .303 with 24 RBIs, said there is a different mentality at work this season.
“Now we have higher expectations, knowing that we’re ready to go in there and make a stand and show everybody what we can do instead of just being complacent, and going for it all,” said Shape, who has raised her own play this season.
She batted .259 last year. Her improvement is symbolic of the team’s improvement. MSU went 8-16 in league play and missed the SEC Tournament, but it owns wins over highly ranked teams like Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M.
The Lady Bulldogs lost all of those series, but the wins showed the players that progress was being made.
“Those games, they kind of showed how good we are, and we expect to win them,” Shape said. “We’re not just happy to be in them. We want to win, and we expect to.”
Looking to get hot
MSU hasn’t played particularly well of late, having lost six of its last seven games. Stuedeman noted that her team’s play has been inconsistent, but she’s trying to make sure the players are looking forward and not back. Shape said they are.
“We have to put the past in the past, and the past is the past now,” she said. “We’re just ready to make a run for it.”