Spartans thrive during summer months
Then-sophomore pitcher David Garner delivers a pitch during a game against Penn State May 19 at McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field. Garner earned a spot on the Cape Cod League All-Star team earlier this summer.
Few MSU athletic programs currently are riding a wave of positive momentum comparable to Jake Boss Jr.’s MSU baseball team.
In back-to-back seasons, the head coach — entering his fifth season in East Lansing — has led the Spartans to their first Big Ten championship and NCAA Tournament appearance since 1979.
Although the majority of his roster is dispersed across the nation playing in various summer leagues from Florida to Alaska, Boss and his staff are hitting the pavement during a crucial time for recruiting high school prospects.
Looking forward to 2013, the Spartans are tasked with replacing six seniors and three other players selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Three Spartans were honored for their performances this summer by being named all-stars in their respective leagues — junior pitchers David Garner in the Cape Cod League and Mike Theodore in the Alaska League, along with sophomore outfielder Jimmy Pickens in the Northwoods League.
“Those are three talented guys, there’s no doubt,” Boss said. “It’s good to see those guys kind of taking the next step, and that’s the important thing about summer baseball.”
Last season, Garner compiled a 6-3 record with a 3.28 ERA as MSU’s No. 3 starting pitcher. The Niles, Mich., player marks the third time in three years a Spartan has been named to the Cape Cod League All-Star game.
With Tony Bucciferro, the ace of the 2012 pitching staff, now in the minor league system, the opportunity for Garner to earn the No. 2 job, or possibly the No. 1, is up in the air, Boss said.
Last year’s Saturday pitcher, senior Andrew Waszak, also will be gunning for the ball on Fridays.
“It’s a good problem to have — we’ve got some depth coming back on the mound,” Boss said. “There’s going to be a lot of competition, that’s for sure; it’s going to be fun to watch it shake out.”
Theodore currently is 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA for the Anchorage Bucs.
Pickens, a 2012 All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection, has the sixth-best batting average in his league at .362 for the Alexandria Beetles after leading the Spartans in homers last season.
Boss received some good news earlier this month when incoming freshmen Justin Alleman of Holt, Mich., and Cam Gibson — son of MSU legend Kirk Gibson — announced they would honor their commitment to come to East Lansing after being selected in the MLB Draft.
Alleman, Michigan’s 2012 Mr. Baseball, was drafted in the 18th round by the Kansas City Royals. Gibson, an outfielder from Grosse Pointe South High School, was chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 38th round.
“It’s exciting when you recruit those talented types of kids who end up coming to Michigan State, and it’s our task to get them better,” Boss said.