Mississippi State University has had a softball team for many years now but has only ranked in the top 25 nationally among other collegiate softball teams during preseason rankings once in its history. In 2001, the Bulldog softball team was ranked No. 23 by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. This year, that same association ranked MSU's team No. 22.
"We are thankful for the preseason recognition as a testament to the hard work of our program over the past year," Head Coach Samantha Ricketts said in a release about the rankings. "We are eager to get back on the field together and continuing to work together toward our goals and are appreciative of the opportunity."
Aside from the rankings of the NFCA showing the Bulldogs' improvement, they have also been ranked No. 15 among other D1 softball teams this past month. Coach Ricketts has had much success during her time leading the Bulldogs, and it has not gone unnoticed. John Cohen, MSU's director of athletics, has been impressed with the work of Ricketts throughout her time at MSU.
"I'm really proud of her," Cohen said. "I think she's done a tremendous job. It's never easy to take over a program, but I think it's a little easier when you have a hand in recruiting a lot of the players like she did."
Ricketts was the fastest head coach in the history of MSU softball coaches to have 20 wins under her belt, as well as her team ranking nationally that same season. Going into the 2021 season, most of her lineup will remain the same, with the loss of only three players from last season and the gain of four new team members.
One player in particular, Mia Davidson, is one of the team's offensive leaders, as well as the team's catcher. Davidson is a senior from Hillsborough, North Carolina, who has received many awards and honors throughout her career.
"I see her, and I think she's like a mini Coach Ricketts," ESPN/SEC's Jenny Dalton-Hill commented about Davidson.
In her junior season, the 2020 softball season, Davidson started every single game for the Bulldogs. She is one a couple of MSU's softball players who has at least 50 career home runs. Director of Athletics Cohen said he has seen a lot from the catcher during her time with the Bulldogs and sees she is a talented player.
"I've seen her play a lot," Cohen said. "She's somebody who's very talented and really knows the game well."
He went on to explain the diverse talents of Davidson around the field, both offensively and defensively.
"She's a complete player," Cohen said. "She's a great offensive player; she has power and runs well for a catcher. She can hit for average and is also a very good defensive player. She can really receive behind the plate and has great arm strength. I'm looking forward to watching her play."
Coach Ricketts, Davidson and the team will have their season debut on Feb. 13 at noon in Starkville. The Bulldogs will face the Miami RedHawks. Cohen expects this season and those going forward under the leadership of Coach Ricketts to be something to watch.
"I think Sam (Coach Ricketts) is a wonderful leader," Cohen said. "She's someone who leads by example, and I think her best work is going to be ahead of her."