As you walk near Nusz Park on the campus of Mississippi State University, the sights and sounds of ongoing construction to the brand-new $7 million indoor facility can be heard ringing throughout the complex.
For graduate outfielder Chloe Malau’ulu, the park is a constant reminder of the NCAA Super Regional loss to the University of Arizona and a missed opportunity to make it to the College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
“We’ve definitely upped our standards. (Coach) Ricketts has set many standards for us on the field, off the field, just making us not just a better athlete, but a better person overall,” Malau’ulu said.
The 2022 season featured a historic run for the Mississippi State softball team. Bulldogs head coach Samantha Ricketts led her team to their first-ever NCAA Super Regional appearance where they hosted Arizona.
Catcher Mia Davidson and pitcher Annie Willis were two important keys to the Bulldogs’ success last season, but MSU softball has a good mixture of returning veterans and incoming freshmen looking to make an impact in 2023.
At the MSU softball media day, coach Ricketts discussed how the freshman class has progressed in the offseason.
“I’m excited for them; they’re a really athletic group,” Ricketts said. “They’re hungry, definitely. I think they understand the change in the mindset, and they’ve really bought into that.”
Ricketts spoke highly of freshmen pitchers Josey Marron and Reis Beuerlein, stating they both could see the circle a lot this season. Extra Innings Softball ranked Marron as the No. 39 recruit in the class and the No. 17 pitcher nationally, while ranking Beuerlein as the No. 68 recruit and the No. 25 pitcher nationally.
The Bulldogs are building a foundation and identity that the program has not seen before. There is a new culture and feeling surrounding Mississippi State softball, which also includes a new indoor facility.
Coach Ricketts toured the media members around the facility as a part of the MSU softball media day, and we immediately recognized the vision. You could tell, this was long overdue for the program. The most interesting part of the facility was the many signatures and names of former players that helped build the foundation for the program for years to come.
Although it is a work in progress, Ricketts gave a status report on the construction of the indoor facility.
“The construction, it’s construction. But, it is really going well,” Ricketts said. “We’ve been lucky to have really great weather this fall and so far in January. We’re pretty much practicing outside as much as we can just not having any batting cages like we typically would.”
The new indoor facility is not only well-deserved, but it was earned. Last year’s team scratched and clawed for every opportunity to show off their talent. Even though MSU softball has the potential to make another postseason run, it will not come easy.
The Bulldogs have a brutal non-conference schedule in 2023 that includes the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational, where the Bulldogs face the likes of Indiana, Arizona, Michigan, South Florida and UCF. Before MSU enters the SEC portion of their schedule, they also have to play the reigning national champion, the Oklahoma Sooners, in Starkville as part of the Bulldog Invitational.
Coach Ricketts discussed the non-conference scheduling and why it helps prepare her team for conference play and beyond.
“We know we are going to take lumps early on, but it’s for exactly the way it worked out last year when we started off early last season .500, and (we) were kind of nervous about the way the year was gonna shake out,” Ricketts said. “But when we got to Tallahassee and got to play Florida State and the Super Regional, you could just tell the shift in the mindset of the team.”
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