By Tom Callahan
To say the 2018 season was an emotional roller coaster for the Mississippi State Bulldogs is putting it mildly. Freshman Alex Wilcox is battling ovarian cancer, Senior Cassidy Knudsen’s mom is undergoing cancer treatment and Bevia Robinson’s mother fell ill just about a month ago. Senior Calyn Adams lost her mother as a sophomore. Senior Reggie Harrison first lost her mother to cancer and then her father suddenly three years ago. These women have been through a lot in their young lives.
But through it all emerged a team that united the SEC with teal ribbons, t-shirts and shows of support for Wilcox and the rest of the team.
“The season was incredible, it has been very emotional,” said MSU Head Coach Vann Stuedeman. “We had a lot of off-the-field family issues and along the way all our kids were so tough through every bit of it.”
Along the way the team set school records with 19 shutouts and 55 home runs, plus freshman Mia Davidson hit her 19th home run of the season Sunday to establish a single season record. They reached championship day for the first time since 2005, giving the Bulldogs a shot to advance one step closer to the Women’s College World Series. They hadn’t won a game in the SEC tournament since 2008 before defeating Texas A&M 2-0 in the first round this year.
Stuedeman has always worked to graduate her student-athletes and win softball games, but when she reflected on her own college days she couldn’t recall a player or a parent with cancer, or a teammate who had lost both parents, or anything resembling what her team has been going through this season.
“It just seems like it’s more and more a thing,” she said of everything swirling around the team. “It is something that’s constantly in the front of your mind on a daily basis. How is ‘x’ player and her support system. It’s tough. These kids are incredible.”
“This team and the university, the coaches – they mean everything to me,” said Senior pitcher Holly Ward as the emotions welled up.
Steudeman fought back her own tears.
“We’re going to need five minutes or five days to come down from (all) this (emotion).”
DAVIDSON WRAPS STANDOUT FRESHMAN CAMPAIGN
After hitting her school record 19th home run Sunday in the Bulldogs’ final game, freshman Mia Davidson looked on from the press table with a stare that was equal parts sadness and discontent. The Bulldogs season had just come to an end only minutes earlier and clearly everything was still processing. But when asked about her own season, she brightened slightly.
“I can’t really complain about it. I left everything on the field.”
Clearly the freshman collected the accolades this year, named SEC Freshman of the Year, First Team All-SEC and Freshman All-SEC as well. She became the first Bulldog to be named the league’s top freshman since two-time All-American Courtney Bures in 2005.
When asked about her goals for next year, Davidson said she wanted to get ready for next year, become stronger and get right back at it.