Eastern Michigan always will hold a special place in the heart of MSU baseball head coach Jake Boss Jr.
Boss was an assistant coach at the school from 1997-2004, and it gave him his first college head coaching job when he became its head man in 2008.
In that one season, Boss was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year as the Eagles won the MAC Tournament and reached their first NCAA Tournament regional appearance since 2003.
So it wasn’t a surprise when MSU came calling the following season. But Boss still shares a bond with the program, especially the players he coached there.
That bond will be renewed this week as the Spartans (24-12) play a home-and-home series with the Eagles (24-15). The first game is at 3 p.m. today at McLane Baseball Stadium at Kobs Field, and the second game is in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Wednesday.
“We had some special memories from my one year as head coach,” Boss said. “Those guys that were on that team as freshmen are now seniors, so we share a pretty special experience. They’re good kids.”
Current Eastern Michigan head coach Jay Alexander has continued the program’s success since Boss left, and the Eagles come into the week with 24 overall wins — the second most in the MAC.
“He’s taken that program to another level where they’re starting to compete year in, year out for the Mid-American Conference championship,” Boss said. “He’s done a good job, so we’re going to have to play well to win.”
Sophomore second baseman Ryan Jones — on a 25-game hitting streak — said the Spartans need to find consistency.
“For the most part, I feel like we’re playing really good baseball early in games. (It’s) just putting together multiple innings in a row of good baseball. “Hopefully with Eastern, we’ll get more production from everybody up and down our lineup and up and down our pitching lineup. We’re looking forward to the challenge and getting back at it.”
The Spartans have gone 2-4 in the past two Big Ten weekends with a win against Central Michigan in Detroit in between but still remain in a tie for first place.
“The bottom line is we’re still tied for first place,” Boss said. “We still control our own destiny. The ball is still in our court, and people are still going to have to beat us if they want to win the championship.”
But before resuming conference play, getting momentum heading into a home series against Penn State this weekend is important.
“It’s a little bit of a trap game, too, because it’s a game we should win,” senior first baseman Jeff Holm said of today’s matchup. “Everybody has to bring their best effort to get momentum going into a home series.”
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