Michigan Baseball Staff Writer
The Spartans are coming off the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1979 and show no signs of slowing down, having been picked to finish third in the Big Ten and boasting a 4-4 record through the first eight games of the 2013 season.
Michigan State not only has last season’s success to build off of this year, the team also returns 20 letterwinners from the 2012 team that won the third most games in school history, 37. Of the five Spartans named to the 2012 All-Big Ten Team last season, just Jordan Keur has returned with Torsten Boss, Ryan Jones and Tony Bucciferro were selected by MLB teams. Keur has been named a team captain, along with Andrew Waszak and John Martinez.
Losses aside, Michigan State also has two players who were named to the All-Freshman team, Blaise Salter and Jimmy Pickens, returning for their sophomore teams.
Bucciferro’s departure left the No. 1 spot in the order open for the Spartans; Waszak is expected to fill that role. As a junior last season, Waszak went 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 16 starts.
Also returning is center fielder Anthony Cheky who stole 15 bases while hitting .311 last season. First baseman Ryan Krill and catcher Joel Fisher are returning to the Spartans this season. Breakout star David Garner also returns after going 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA last season. Also on the mound will be Mick VanVossen who went 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA in 2012.
With the large number of talented players leaving, head coach Jake Boss needed an equally talented freshman class, and he got it. Justin Alleman, 2012 Mr. Baseball in Michigan, and Cam Gibson, son of MSU-alum Kirk Gibson, both chose the Spartans over the MLB minors.
With a talented young class coming into East Lansing joining a group that won 37 games last season, the Spartans received some votes for the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll. The early schedule also features games against 10 teams receiving votes in the Preseason Poll, including No. 8 Kentucky, Austin Peay and Purdue.
The Spartans should have good chemistry this season with much of their 2012 team returning, and the players joining the team this year are some of the most talented in East Lansing in a while. Prior to the season, the Big Ten coaches named MSU the third best team in the conference, behind Indiana and Nebraska.
The vote of confidence by other Big Ten coaches only confirms what Coach Boss knows he has built on the Red Cedar; this Spartans team is capable of repeating the 2012 successes, if not exceeding them. If this team is to succeed, look for Waszak, Garner and Keur to play major roles all season.