Being back at Fluor Field has become a tradition for Michigan State baseball, and a place they truly enjoy.
“It’s almost been a full calendar year since we went and played anybody," MSU baseball head coach Jake Boss told the media ahead of the team's season opener. "So, to get a chance to go down to a place we kind of feel is our second home in Greenville, South Carolina … it’s a special place, a great ballpark.”
The Spartans will finally be able to be back on the field after the 2020 season being cut short and a delayed start this year.
As the Big Ten conference released its preseason honors list and preseason poll, three Michigan State players were named Big Ten Preseason Players to Watch. Prominent players and students on and off the field, junior pitcher Mason Erla, senior outfielder Bryce Kelley and senior infielder Bailey Peterson received the accolade.
A right handed pitcher from Cass City, Michigan, Mason Erla is a stand out player for the Spartans as he ranked second in the Big Ten and 10th in the NCAA with 42 strikeouts and four overall runs allowed.
Erla previously has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week during the 2018 season, Big Ten Pitcher of the Week during the 2020 season and Second-Team preseason All-American, MSU’s first All-American since the 2015 season. With only 17 more strikeouts needed, Erla will enter the MSU top 10 list for career strikeouts.
“Mason Erla is probably the highest profile guy that we have right now on the roster … and is really, in my opinion, one of the best right handed pitchers in the country,” Boss said in an interview regarding players to watch this season.
Senior outfielder Bryce Kelley consistently performs well on and off the field, as he has been named the Danny Litwhiler Defensive Player of the Year for the second time also while having the highest GPA on the team.
Along with Bailey Peterson, Bryce Kelley has been one of only two Spartans to start and play in all 15 games and ranked second on the team with a .400 batting average for the 2020 season with an overall .313 career batting average.
“Kelley and Bailey Peterson were both hitting .400 or above last year when the season was cut short and so, those guys are gonna have to lead the offense,” Boss Jr. said in an interview.
Both Bryce Kelley and Bailey Peterson will be returning seniors this season after becoming eligible for a fifth season, both were voted as team captains by the rest of the team.
Alongside Kelley, Grandville native Bailey Peterson was the only other Spartan to start and play in all 15 games last season. He previously was the recipient of the John Kobs Most Valuable Player and Kirk Gibson Offensive Player of the Year.
Last season, Peterson ranked second in the Big Ten and tied for 22nd in the NCAA was a .441 batting average, accompanied with a .528 on-base average, also second in the Big Ten.
The returning seniors are ready to be back this season and give it their all. With an expanded roster this season, the team has been focusing on personal development going into this late season.
“I think you know, there’s an appreciation for what we have an opportunity to do. We don’t take it lightly,” Boss Jr. said in an interview. “I think the team dynamics are really good. Our seniors have done a great job of leading these guys.”
The Spartans will take on the Terrapins this weekend in a four game series, starting with a game Friday night at 6:30 p.m, followed by a double-header Saturday at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m and the final matchup being Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, there will be a limited number of fans with only family and friends being able to attend. MSU baseball does six weekly COVID tests, followed by the Big Ten antigen tests three times a week. The Spartans will spend the weekend in South Carolina, come home for a couple days of practice, and then head back down to South Carolina for the following weekend’s matchup against Northwestern.
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