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Column: Another year signals growth for program

June 3, 2012

Painted to the wall in bold green letters inside of MSU baseball’s indoor hitting facility next to McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field is a constant reminder of the expectations for the players when they’re inside.

It reads: “Impress Somebody Today!”

They walk by it when they enter the building, and they pass it several times when putting gear away en route to leaving for the day.

It’s a solemn vow of excellence adhered to by both players and coaches who enter the complex. It’s a dare to defy historical barriers and reach for a plateau that sets the program higher than it ever has been before. At the most basic level, it’s how programs are built.

This season, the Spartans impressed more than a few people.

The MSU baseball team returned to East Lansing on Sunday following a pair of weekend losses in the NCAA Tournament in Palo Alto, Calif. Crushed and empty-handed, the Spartans enter the offseason with more questions than answers and have plenty to think about during the next eight months until they resume play.

But it only takes looking back at the past season to see how far the program has come.
Despite missing out on a chance to repeat as Big Ten champions after breaking a 32-year title drought a season ago, the Spartans finished the 2012 campaign with a record of 37-23 with a 13-11 mark in the Big Ten. On top of that, MSU’s slate of nonconference victories boosted its résumé enough to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1979.

Keep in mind, 37 victories and an NCAA Tournament appearance is nothing to turn a nose up at.
Since the last time the Spartans went to the Big Dance, the program has an overall record of 901-897-2 and has seen five different coaches in that time span. In just four seasons with the program, head coach Jake Boss Jr. has amassed a record of 130-94 and has garnered pockets of national attention for a northern baseball school traditionally reserved for Michigan or Notre Dame.

Additionally, three of the top 10 records in the 128 years of MSU baseball have occurred in the last three seasons, with this year’s 37 wins registering for the third most in school history.

Challenges abound for the Spartans moving into the offseason, the program loses team captains pitcher Tony Bucciferro and shortstop Justin Scanlon as part of a class of six departing seniors. And with the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft beginning on Monday, the Spartans could lose juniors second baseman Ryan Jones and third baseman Torsten Boss, among others, as well.

There will be losses. But that’s nothing new to Boss.

With a roster featuring nine freshmen in 2012 — with as many as four of them starting on any given day — Boss has the fortune to turn to guys such as catcher Blaise Salter, first baseman Ryan Krill and outfielder Anthony Cheky to make the leap into stars in their second seasons. In the pitching rotation, junior Andrew Waszak likely will move into the role of the team’s ace and will tow the rubber ahead of talented guys like sophomores David Garner and Mike Theodore and freshman Mick VanVossen.

The Spartans also have the benefit of four top-25 players in the state of Michigan joining the program next season, as ranked by michiganbaseballprospects.org. Among the players slated to join the team, Holt pitcher and catcher Justin Alleman (No. 5), Grosse Pointe South center fielder Cam Gibson (No. 11), Midland third baseman and outfielder Alex Rapanos (No. 16) and Anchor Bay pitcher and first baseman Anthony Misiewicz (No. 23).

Even as the book closes on the 2012 season, Boss once again has led the program to new heights and continues a commitment to build something special that started when he arrived at MSU in 2008.

With the improvement and results of 2012, the Spartans certainly impressed somebody today. But in the process of admiring what’s been accomplished, don’t forget that tomorrow’s a new day.

Dillon Davis is the features and sports editor at The State News. He can be reached at davisdi4@msu.edu

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