Four-run fifth inning sparks MSU.
Four-run fifth inning sparks MSU.
Michigan State's 1979 and 2012 baseball teams were seemingly cast from the same mold.
Jake Boss Jr. was appointed the 16th head coach in Michigan State baseball history on July 1, 2008, and has taken little time to make his mark on the program.
In just five seasons, Boss has compiled a 163-111 (.595) record, marking the winningest five-year span in the history of the program. He has guided the Spartans to four straight 30-win seasons, the Big Ten regular-season championship in 2011, and the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
Under Boss' watch at MSU, players have earned All-Big Ten honors 23 times, including eight selections in 2011, which tied a school record. The six first-team All-Big Ten selections in 2011 were the most in program history and featured Player of the Year Jeff Holm, Pitcher of the Year Kurt Wunderlich and Big Ten batting champion Brandon Eckerle.
Last season, the Spartans recorded at least 30 wins for the fourth consecutive season, posting a 33-17 mark. The 33 wins marked the ninth-highest win total in school history. Three Spartans earned All-Big Ten honors, including Andrew Waszak who was later drafted in the 22nd round by Atlanta. Pitcher David Garner was also chosen in the MLB draft as the Chicago Cubs selected in the seventh round.
In 2012, the Spartans won 37 games, third most in school history, and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 1979. Five Spartans garnered All-Big Ten recognition, including first-team outfielder Jordan Keur.
Following MSU's successful season, four Spartans were selected in the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including third baseman Torsten Boss, who was MSU's highest draft pick (eighth round, Baltimore Orioles) in 10 years. Second baseman Ryan Jones (13th round, San Francisco Giants), right-handed pitcher Tony Bucciferro (14th round, Chicago White Sox) and closer Tony Wieber (33rd round, San Diego Padres) were also chosen in the draft.
In five seasons under Boss, 12 Spartans have been drafted, the most during a four-year span at Michigan State since 1988-93 (17). Including incoming signees, Michigan State has had 13 players drafted in the past two seasons.
The 2011 Spartans reached the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time since 1992 and finished the season at 36-21, tying for the fourth-most wins in program history. Michigan State went 15-9 during Big Ten play and tied with Illinois for the regular-season title, MSU's first since 1979. Boss was named the 2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year, becoming just the second Spartan coach to earn the award.
The Spartans compiled an 11-1 record at home in conference play, including sweeps over Minnesota (first ever), Penn State and Purdue (first since 1983). The Spartans also swept Michigan in Ann Arbor in a non-conference series, giving MSU its first sweep over the Wolverines in a series (three games or more) since 1955. It marked just the third time in school history MSU had posted four sweeps in one season, and it was the first time MSU had three sweeps at home during Big Ten action. In just three seasons, Boss has collected 10 series sweeps (three games or more) - six against Big Ten opponents - which is the most of any Spartan coach in school history.
Michigan State led the Big Ten and ranked seventh in the nation with a .318 batting average. The Spartans also ranked among the conference's leaders in hits (first with 639), slugging (second at .427), on-base percentage (second at .385), runs scored (second with 348), RBIs (second with 317) and doubles (second with 115).
On the mound, MSU boasted two first-team All-Big Ten pitchers (Wunderlich, Tony Bucciferro) for the first time in school history. Overall, the Spartans finished third in the Big Ten with a 4.08 staff ERA, the lowest ERA for the program since 1978. MSU also walked the third-fewest batters (172) in the conference and the 332 strikeouts were the fifth most in school history.
In addition, for the second straight season MSU ranked among the nation's top 25 in fielding with a Big Ten-best .975 fielding percentage, which ranked 24th among all NCAA Division I teams.
Holm (12th round, Detroit), Wunderlich (20th round, Oakland) and Eckerle (32nd round, Detroit) were each chosen in the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
In 2010, Boss led the Spartans to a 34-19 record in 2010, tying for the sixth-most wins in program history. MSU opened the year winning 20 of its first 25 games, the best 25-game start since 1971, and racked up an 11-game winning streak during that stretch, the longest since 2004. MSU's strong start garnered national attention, as the Spartans received votes in the national polls.
Offensively, the Spartans ranked among the Big Ten leaders in nearly every statistical category, including batting (second at .325), triples (second with 22), runs (third with 415) and slugging (third at .471). MSU's defense was the best in the Big Ten, ranking first in the conference and 19th nationally with a .975 fielding percentage. On the mound, the Spartans were third in the league in ERA.
Although the Spartans narrowly missed a bid to the Big Ten Tournament on the last day of the regular season, MSU was rewarded with seven players on the All-Big Ten Team, tying for the second-most all-league selections in school history. Leading the way was shortstop Jonathan Roof, MSU's first All-Big Ten first-team selection since 2006. Second baseman Ryan Jones earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, becoming only the second player in program history to win the award. Jones was also named to the All-Big Ten second team, along with Eli Boike and Torsten Boss, while Jeff Holm, Chris Roberts and Kurt Wunderlich each garnered third-team accolades.
In addition, two Spartans - Roof (8th round, Texas) and A.J. Achter (46th round, Minnesota) - were chosen in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft in June. Senior Eric Roof became the first Spartan to be drafted under Boss, as MSU's leading offensive player in 2009 was taken in the 18th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Detroit Tigers.
In Boss' first season, he led the Green and White to its highest Big Ten finish in five years and its first trip to the Big Ten Tournament since 2004. A Lansing native with 19 years of coaching experience, including 15 at the collegiate level, Boss was named the 2008 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year and led Eastern Michigan to the NCAA Regionals in his first year as a head coach. His successful season catapulted him to East Lansing, where he now directs the one program he has wanted to coach his entire career.
Under Boss' direction in 2009, the Spartans won their most games at home (15) and matched their longest conference-game winning streak (7) in the previous five seasons. The 2009 season also marked the opening of McLane Baseball Stadium at Kobs Field.
"I believe in order to be successful and develop our players throughout their careers, we will focus on four main areas in each of their lives: academics and the effort to learn and graduate; character on and off the field; team philosophy and the effort and will to win; and career goals both at Michigan State University and beyond," said Boss. "Our players will play hard, compete, and most importantly, trust each other to be successful. We will build our program on relationships and a family atmosphere throughout our team consisting of both current and former players."
Boss' emphasis on academics has led to the Spartans having 38 Academic All-Big Ten selections his first two years, including Brandon Eckerle, who was named a first-team Academic All-American in 2011. Eckerle became just the second player in program history to earn Academic All-America honors twice.
In just one season as head coach at Eastern Michigan in 2008, Boss made an immediate impact, guiding the Eagles to their second consecutive MAC West Division crown and first NCAA Regional appearance since 2003. The Eagles swept through the MAC Tournament, winning all four games by a combined 21 runs, to notch the school's fourth tournament title. The conference title capped a remarkable turnaround, as Eastern Michigan - picked to finish fifth in the division - closed the season on a hot streak, claiming 25 of 40 games and earning a berth in the NCAA field.
For his efforts, Boss was selected the 2008 MAC Coach of the Year and made history by becoming just the second coach in league history to win the MAC Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament in his first season. Overall, the Eagles finished the season 15-8 in conference play and 25-34 overall. The Eagles were one of the top offensive teams in the MAC, ranking among the league leaders in hits (third with 615), home runs (fourth with 64), runs (fourth with 300) and RBI (fifth with 372).
Two Eagles, Josh Ivan and Matt Shoemaker, garnered All-MAC honors, while four players were named to the all-tournament team, including true freshman and tournament MVP Zach Leonard. In addition, four student-athletes were recognized on the Academic All-MAC team, second most of any school in the conference.
"Jake is committed to winning with integrity and understands the entire scope and impact Spartan baseball has on our community and the state of Michigan," said MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis, who made Boss his first coaching hire. "He is committed to getting the best out of his student-athletes whether they are on the field, in the classroom, or preparing them to becoming contributing members of our society.
"Through his actions, Jake has earned the respect of high school and youth coaches, professional scouts, current and former players, and most everyone he comes into contact with. He has prepared himself well for this position and has enjoyed success as both an assistant and head coach. Most importantly, he wants to be a Spartan.
"The combination of naming Jake Boss as our head coach, the addition of our indoor pitching and hitting facility, and the completion of a 2,500-seat McLane Baseball Stadium demonstrates the commitment that our university and department have for our baseball program."
Boss is no stranger to postseason play, as he has coached in six of the last 11 NCAA Tournaments. Prior to being named head coach at Eastern Michigan, he was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Michigan from 2004-07, as the Wolverines made NCAA Regional appearances all three seasons. Boss was a member of the staff that led the Wolverines to three straight 40-win campaigns, with a 42-19 record in 2005, a 43-21 mark in 2006 and a 42-19 finish in 2007. Michigan won the 2006 and 2007 Big Ten regular-season titles, and claimed an NCAA Regional title in 2007 by upsetting top-seeded Vanderbilt to advance to the school's first-ever Super Regional.
In addition to serving as the recruiting coordinator at Michigan, Boss handled the outfielders, catchers and assisted with the hitters. Boss mentored Wolverine catcher Jeff Kunkel, who was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Catcher of the Year Award in 2006. In addition, Michigan hit over .300 as a team all three of his years in Ann Arbor.
The 42-year old Boss was an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan for seven seasons (1997-2004) before coaching in Ann Arbor. During his stint as an assistant in Ypsilanti, Boss helped the Eagles to back-to-back MAC West Division championships in 2002 and 2003. In 2003, the Eagles also won the conference tournament title while advancing to the NCAA Regional. Working mostly with catchers, infielders and hitters, the Eagles set several team records under Boss' direction, including home runs with 95 in 2002. The 2002 squad ranked ninth in the nation in homers and 10th in slugging percentage.
Throughout his career, Boss has worked with 37 players who have advanced to the professional ranks, including 2004 All-American and second-round draftee Brian Bixler, who opened the 2010 season on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster. Boss has coached 33 players who have been drafted since his first Division I coaching job at EMU and has tutored nine All-Americans.
Boss began his collegiate coaching career in 1996 and 1997 as an assistant baseball coach at Iowa Central Community College in Ft. Dodge, Iowa. Both seasons the team advanced to the NJCAA World Series, including a runner-up finish in 1997. While at ICCC, he worked with three All-Americans, coached the catchers and outfielders and oversaw the academic services of the baseball team. He also served as an associate scout for the Atlanta Braves organization in 1996-97.
Boss started his coaching career as an assistant coach at Lakeview (Mich.) High School in 1994 before being named the head coach at Webberville (Mich.) High School in 1995.
Boss, who played baseball at Alma from 1989-93, earned his bachelor's degree in English in 1993. He completed his master's degree in physical education from Eastern Michigan in 2000.
An accomplished writer, Boss was co-author of a book, Dare to Hit .400, in the spring of 1998. He has been a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association since 1995.
Boss and his wife, Cheryl (Schiff), have two daughters, Abigail and Grace, and a son, Jacob.
THE JAKE BOSS JR. FILE
PREVIOUS COACHING EXPERIENCE: Assistant Coach at Lakeview (Mich.) High School (1994); Head Coach at Webberville (Mich.) High School (1995); Assistant Coach at Iowa Central Community College (1996-97); Assistant Coach at Eastern Michigan (1997-2004); Assistant Coach at Michigan (2005-07); Head Coach at Eastern Michigan (2008).
COACHING RECORD - OVERALL: 188-145 (.565) in six seasons.
COACHING RECORD - MSU: 163-111 (.595) in five seasons. Named head coach on July 1, 2008. | Coverage of Boss' introductory press conference
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in English from Alma in 1993; master's degree in physical education from Eastern Michigan in 2000.
PLAYING EXPERIENCE: Four-year letterwinner at Alma (1989-93).
POSTSEASON EXPERIENCE: Head Coach - 2008 NCAA Regionals, 2012 NCAA Regionals; Assistant Coach - 2003, 2005, 2006 NCAA Regionals, 2007 NCAA Super Regionals; 1996, 1997 NJCAA World Series.
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