STARKVILLE -- Samantha Ricketts, one of the rising coaching stars in college softball who has directed the most explosive offenses in Mississippi State history, has been named the Bulldogs' sixth head softball coach, Director of Athletics John Cohen announced Monday.
"It became clear during our search that Samantha Ricketts was the right fit to lead Mississippi State softball," Cohen said. "Samantha's vision, national recruiting experience and her ability to teach the game were the biggest factors in our decision. She has been one of the most sought-after rising stars in the nation. Coach Ricketts has the utmost respect from our student-athletes and her peers around the country. With her SEC experience and her time at Oklahoma, she knows what it takes to develop our student-athletes into strong people both on and off the field."
Ricketts served as MSU's assistant coach from 2015-18 focusing on hitting and recruiting before being promoted to associate head coach on July 30, 2018. The San Jose, California, native has been a part of one Women's College World Series appearance, six NCAA Regional berths and two NCAA Super Regional appearances during her coaching career.
"I am honored and thrilled for the opportunity to lead Mississippi State softball," Ricketts said. "I am thankful to (Director of Athletics) John Cohen and (President) Dr. Mark Keenum for believing in me. I take so much pride in this program, and we will work extremely hard and efficiently in elevating Mississippi State softball to our ultimate goals. I am eager to continue to mentor our team, not just as Bulldog student-athletes but as first-class leaders in this community."
Ricketts will be formally introduced as the Bulldogs' new head coach at a 10 a.m. Thursday press conference in the Golding Family Media Center on the north end of Davis Wade Stadium.
MSU has become of the nation's elite offensive teams under Ricketts' watch. In her first season of 2015, the Bulldogs set new single-season records for home runs (54), batting average (.312), slugging percentage (.495), RBI (294) and on-base percentage (.416). MSU also finished second in the single-season record books for runs scored (326), doubles (84) and hit by pitches (72). In 2014 without Ricketts on the MSU staff, just two Bulldogs hit over .300, while in 2015 with the addition of Ricketts, nine Bulldogs hit over .300 (min. five at-bats).
Several records would fall again in 2019. In her fifth season with the program and first as associate head coach, Ricketts' protégés Fa Leilua and Mia Davidson became one of the most dynamic duos in the nation. MSU joined Arizona as the only clubs in the nation to boast multiple hitters with 20 or more home runs. The Bulldogs shattered the school record for home runs (72) and posted the second-highest slugging percentage in school history (.484).
For the first time since 2008, State produced multiple NFCA All-Americans with Leilua and Davidson earning a spot on the coveted list. Leilua closed 2019 with 22 total home runs, setting a new MSU junior record. The total ranked second in single-season history behind only Davidson's record-shattering mark of 26.
Davidson finished the year by leading the team in batting average (.373), runs scored (52), hits (63), doubles (8), home runs (26), slugging percentage (.882), total bases (149), walks (23), hit by pitch (14) and on-base percentage (.476).
The two-time First Team All-SEC honoree ranked second nationally and tops in the SEC in homers. Her 26 home runs not only set a new MSU single-season record but also broke the SEC's single-season mark that was once held by Georgia's Alex Hugo (2014) and Alabama's Kelly Kretschman (1998). Davidson was the lone player in the SEC to record at least 60 RBI, 60 hits and 50 runs scored in 2019. She already holds the program record for career home runs (45) and slugging percentage (.818).
Ricketts made an immediate impact in Davidson's debut season of 2018. The freshman slugged a then-MSU single-season record 19 home runs and became just the third player in school history to be named SEC Freshman of the Year.
During the 2016 season, Ricketts' leadership led senior Kayla Winkfield to a .330 average and an SEC-leading six triples, which finished top 10 in the nation. For her career, Winkfield finished in MSU's top 10 for triples (10) and stolen bases (75).
Ricketts was also responsible for the rise of Caroline Seitz, who concluded her career as one of the best players in program history. In 2017, Seitz finished tied for second in home runs (37), third in doubles (53), fourth in RBI (166), fifth in slugging percentage (.554), fifth in assists (462) and sixth in total bases (406).
That same season, Ricketts produced five starters that hit .300 or better to help lead the Bulldogs to an NCAA Regional. Ricketts guided Seitz to a breakout senior season that earned the Birmingham, Alabama, native first-team All-SEC honors. Seitz was the first Bulldog to earn the laurel since Chelsea Bramlett in 2010.
Prior to joining the Bulldogs, Ricketts served as assistant coach at Wichita State from 2012-14, working with the team's hitters and consistently improving their production. Her last spring at WSU was her most successful as she helped the Shockers increase their overall win total by 15 from 2013 to 2014. WSU finished 21-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in 2014 to win the program's first regular-season league title. Ricketts was part of the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year, helping to improve the Shockers from the ninth place in 2012, to eighth place in 2013, to MVC champs in 2014.
Individually, Ricketts produced five starters who each hit better than .300 in 2014 after the squad did not have a batter hit over .300 in 2013. The Shockers scored 138 more runs, smashed 26 more home runs, hit 11 more doubles and added seven more triples from the previous season. Overall, the 2014 team established program single-season records for batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in and total bases.
Under Ricketts' guidance, Cacy Williams was a NFCA All-Midwest Region First-Team honoree in 2014 as well as becoming the first student-athlete in MVC history to receive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors from the league. She broke the Wichita State single-season records for batting average (.424), slugging percentage (.812), on-base percentage (.531), total bases (138), runs scored (57), home runs (16) and RBI (47).
In 2013, her second season at Wichita State, Ricketts oversaw a 12-point jump in team batting average from 2012 while helping the squad to 17 more doubles and seven additional home runs. She also helped Erin Carney earn a spot on the All-MVC First Team. During her first year with the Shockers, Ricketts coached Rachel Milnark and Sydney Stuever to second team All-MVC accolades.
Ricketts also owns professional softball coaching experience. She served as assistant coach for the USSSA Florida Pride of the NPF League. The squad claimed the regular season championship, and the staff was recognized as Coaching Staff of the Year.
At the conclusion of her four-year Oklahoma playing career in 2009, Ricketts was the record holder in career home runs (48) and runs batted in (239) while ranking third in extra-base hits (97), total bases (444), slugging percentage (.645) and on-base percentage (.461). She started 192 consecutive games and ended her career as the Big 12 career RBI leader.
On the field, Ricketts was a four-time All-Big 12 first team selection, a two-time All-American and a two-time Academic All-Big 12 first team honoree. In 2009, she was named to the NFCA All-America Team and NFCA All-Central Region first team while solidifying a spot as a top 10 finalist for the Lowe's Senior Class Award.
In 2008, she was named to the Preseason USA Softball National Player of the Year Watch List and ESPN.com's Preseason All-America second team. Ricketts ended her junior season with All-Big 12 Tournament honors. As a sophomore in 2007, Ricketts was a second-team All-American and first team NFCA All-Midwest Region selection. She became the first Sooner to be a top-three finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year award after topping all Division I players in RBI during the regular season. She was the lone freshman in 2006 to earn All-Big 12 first team honors and was selected as a member of the NFCA All-Midwest Region squad.
Ricketts earned her bachelor's degree in sociology from Oklahoma in 2009 and her Master of Education in adult higher education with an emphasis in intercollegiate athletic administration in December of 2011.
Ricketts began her coaching career at her alma mater as a graduate assistant coach in 2010 and 2011. During that time she played in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league with the Akron Racers. She was the 12th overall pick in the 2009 NPF Draft.
Ricketts has three younger siblings who played collegiate athletics. Her sister, Stephanie, graduated in 2012 after an All-American pitching career at the University of Hawaii and her sister, Keilani, graduated from the Oklahoma and played for the USSSA Pride of the NPF and Shokki Softball in Japan. Keilani was the 2012 and 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and one of the most decorated players in USA Softball history. Her younger brother, Richard, played football at the Air Force Academy.
The Samantha Ricketts File
Hometown: San Jose, California
High School: Archbishop Mitty High School
Undergraduate: Oklahoma, 2009 (Bachelor of Sociology)
Graduate: Oklahoma, 2011 (M.A. in Adult High Education)
2019-present: Head Coach (Mississippi State)
2018-19: Associate Head Coach (Mississippi State)
2015-18: Assistant Coach (Mississippi State)
2012-14: Assistant Coach (Wichita State)
2009-11: Graduate Assistant (Oklahoma)
Ricketts' Hitters By The Numbers
46............... All-Conference Academic Honors
20 ...............All-Conference Honors
19 ...............Conference Players of the Week
17 ...............All-Region Honors
7 .................Conference Tournament Team Selections
8 ................ All-America Honors
3 ................. National Players of the Week
2 ................ CoSIDA Academic All-District Selection
2................. Conference Players of the Year
1................. Conference Freshman of the Year
1 ................ Conference Tournament MVP
What They Are Saying About Samantha Ricketts ...
"I've had the pleasure of coaching Samantha at the University of Oklahoma from 2006-09. In 2009, she was the captain of the Sooners. Now to witness Sam as the leader and head coach of Mississippi State's softball program is a very proud moment. Hard working and humble, Sam will be the perfect female role model and take the program to new heights."
- Patty Gasso, Oklahoma Head Coach
"Sam Ricketts is a highly respected member of the softball community. She is a talented coach who will continue to build on the very solid foundation at Mississippi State. Her knowledge of the game is only a small part of what makes Sam so special. I have long respected Sam's core values, and I am confident these principles will continue to develop successful women within the Mississippi State softball program."
- Beth Torina, LSU Head Coach