Stephanie Becker has become a valuable member of the Mississippi State softball pitching staff. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
There's a reason Mississippi State lefthanded pitcher Stephanie Becker is having a much better season in 2012 than she did in 2011.
There's a reason Becker has cut her earned run average down from 4.41 in 2011 to 2.50 this season.
There's a reason she has improved her win total from seven last year to 18 this year.
There's a reason Becker has struck out 162 batters this season as compared to only 87 in the one prior.
The reason Becker gives for those numbers and others being better is because of Bulldog coach Vann Stuedeman.
Stuedeman has a way of turning good pitchers into great pitchers and Becker says she has done that for her.
"Vann is a key part of that because she's an awesome pitching and overall coach," Becker said. "She's done a good job of taking our team to the next level. She's done great with the pitching staff and it's all thanks to her. It's nice to be a part of her team."
When Stuedeman was hired as the fifth softball coach in MSU history last June, it was refreshing to Becker and her teammates.
"We were all pumped and excited," Becker said. "We knew great things were going to come. We just bought into her plan and went with it. It's starting to pay off for us and we've all improved. We're doing our best with whatever she tells us to do and try to get the results we want."
The Bulldogs have taken a major step to being where they want to be by qualifying for the Southeastern Conference Tournament as the eighth seed.
When MSU takes on top-seeded Alabama in Tuscaloosa Thursday at 7 p.m., Stuedeman will more than likely put the softball in Becker's hands to start in the circle.
Stuedeman has no problem relying on her junior lefty.
"She threw her first no-hitter ever this year against a quality opponent in South Florida," Stuedeman said. "She was SEC pitcher of the Week this year, which is the first we've had since 2006 and it was Stephanie Comeaux so she's had a successful year for Mississippi State.
"She's been fun to coach and it's been exciting to watch her excel out there."
The no-hitter came in a 1-0 loss to South Florida on Feb. 24 as Becker went the distance. It was the first no-hitter by a Bulldogs since 2010.
South Florida has shown since then just how tough an opponent it can be. After not being ranked at the time of playing MSU, South Florida has worked its way to 18th in the nation with a No. 19 rating performance index and is projected to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Even though she did not give up any hits against South Florida, Becker lost her first game of the season by giving up a run with three walks and hit one batter.
Losing a game in that fashion could rattle some hurlers, but Stuedeman said Becker has done a good job this season of shaking off adversity.
Becker has pitched effectively down the stretch of the season. Dating back to her victory over Kentucky on April 21, Becker has a record of 4-0 with a 0.57 earned run average.
"She brings a short-term memory," Stuedeman said. "She's competitive and is willing to fight every pitch. That allows her to not cripple herself as you see a lot of perfectionist-type of pitchers do."
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