RICHMOND, Va. -- Michigan State baseball routed Richmond, 13-4, Saturday afternoon in the second game of the Richmond Spider Invitational at Richmond’s Pitt Field for MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr.’s 300th career win.
“I’m just very blessed to be able to do what I do and work with the guys that I’ve worked with and to do it at Michigan State. It’s been my dream job since I started pursuing a job in college baseball, so being from the East Lansing area, it’s a thrill for me to put the Green and White uniform on every day. I don’t take it lightly. It’s something that is very special for myself and my family,” Boss said.
Boss is in the early going of his ninth season as head coach of the Spartans and he has an overall record of 300-219 in his 10 overall years as a collegiate head coach. He has a 275-185 record in his nine seasons at the helm of the MSU program.
“It’s a cool honor. I had no idea until I was informed a couple weeks ago that I was getting close,” Boss said. “Winning number 300 is special, we’ve had a lot of good kids here at Michigan State that we’ve been fortunate enough to work with and had a lot of great assistant coaches here that should get and deserve most of the credit for the wins that we’ve got. Those guys work really hard to get us ready to play, to recruit, and that’s a reason why this is a total program effort, so to be a part of it is something that I’m very blessed to be able to do.”
After the game, senior second baseman and team captain, Dan Durkin, presented the game ball to Boss.
“It’s awesome. Obviously, he’s had great teams before us, but being the team that got the 300th win for him is pretty special, and all of guys were pretty excited about it after the game and on the bus,” Durkin said. “Coach Meade handed me the game ball after the game and said to give it to Coach Boss in our team post-game huddle, so I got to announce it to the team that it was his 300th win. I know he doesn’t like attention like that, but with his 300th win, I think he deserved it.”
Saturday’s win improved Michigan State to 11-4 this season, while Richmond slides to 7-10 with the loss. The victory for MSU keeps the Spartans unbeaten all-time against the Spiders in their three meetings, 2-0-1.
MSU rebounded from being down 2-0 after two innings, scoring one in the fourth, then five in the fifth to take the lead and the Spartans didn’t relinquish it, adding two in the sixth, three more in the seventh and tacked on two more in the ninth.
“I’m proud of our guys. I thought we left some opportunities out there in the first three innings, and it had a chance to go bad for us,” Boss said. “I thought Mike Mokma did a nice job minimizing the damage after he was in trouble in the first and the second innings, but only gave up one run in each inning. That was a big part of the game because if those turn into big innings, then I think that game is a lot different. He did a good job of getting out of a couple jams, only allowing one run.”
Senior designated hitter Tayler Grace smashed a three-run home run for his first career round-tripper.
“Taylor Grace had the big home run to kind of break it open for us. I’m really happy for Taylor. We talked in the middle of the week and I told him just to be ready when his name was called and he was ready today. It takes a lot of character for a guy to do that and step up and be ready like that, so it was a big day for Taylor,” Boss said.
Sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski belted a three-run homer of his own in the seventh, part of his 4-for-4 outing with five RBI and scoring four runs.
“It was also a big day for Dan Chmielewski, really, really good day for him, getting the barrel of the bat out on a lot of pitches and hit a lot of balls hard today. Then it started to snowball offensively and it was fun to watch,” Boss said of the Spartans’ big innings boosted by some timely big hits.
Junior center fielder Brandon Hughes was 2-for-4, adding a stolen base for his team-leading 11th of the season. Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina was 1-for-2, drawing three walks and swiping two bases.
“Offensively, I thought we got a lot better as the game wore on, especially in the fourth through seventh innings, putting together a lot of really good at bats, started to move some runners and be more productive with our outs that we were making,” Boss said.
Freshman pitcher Mokma made his starting debut on the mound and struck out two while spraying six hits and allowing two runs, but got the big outs to end the inning when he needed it.
Junior Ethan Landon threw three innings of no-hit, no-run ball to for the rare, three-inning save, picking up his first career save. Landon had been in the Spartans’ starting rotation, but had shortened outings his last couple appearances and was moved to the bullpen for this weekend.
“We wanted to get Ethan right again, and I think that happened today and he got himself right today,” Boss said. “He looked really, really good today. We were able to extend him and have him go those last three innings. Ethan was lights out and that’s the guy that we’ve seen in the past and hopefully the same guy we’ll see in the future. I thought he was very, very sharp, as was the rest of the bullpen with Walter coming in and getting us out of a jam, and same thing with Joe coming in in a big spot and throwing really well.
Richmond got on the board in the home half of the first, stringing together two singles after a walk for an early 1-0 lead with one out, but Mockma fielding his position on a squeeze bunt attempt and got a pop up to thwart the threat.
The Spiders added another in the second on a double by Kyle Schmidt, then an RBI single by D.J. Lee with one out. Again Mockma shutdown the rally, getting a popup and strikeout.
In the third, Richmond got the first two on after back-to-back singles, chasing Mokma and bringing in Borkovich. The Spartan reliever got a flyout then a double play to sophomore shortstop Royce Ando to end the threat.
MSU got on the board in the fourth as Chmielewski led off with a double down the right field line. Grace flew out to center, but was deep enough to move Chmielewski over and senior catcher Matt Byars followed with an RBI double to right center, plating Chmielewski.
The Spartans took the lead by hanging a five-spot on the scoreboard with Grace dealing the big blow with a three-run home run to left center, capping MSU’s five-run inning on five hits, sending 11 batters to the plate.
The visiting Spartans added two more in the top of the sixth, with Chmielewski doing the damage in both innings, with an RBI double and later scoring on a Byars RBI groundout in the sixth and then smashing a two-out three-run home run to left center in the seventh.
Salter drove in Bechina with a double in the ninth, and scored on Jones’ RBI single to cap the scoring.
The Spartans wrap up Spider Invitational action with Cornell on Sunday, March 19 at 10 a.m.
Michigan State’s home opener is Wednesday, March 22 at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field against in-state foe Central Michigan at 3:05 p.m.