Coach Jake Boss and his Spartan baseballers open up their 2015 season this weekend heading off to warm weather and sunshine in Surprise, Arizona for a season-opening three-game slate.
The Spartans will meet up with the always strong, Ray Birmingham coached, New Mexico Lobos in their season opener on Friday, February 13th . The Lobos have won 37 games in each of their last three seasons, and under Birmingham, who is now in his 8th season with the Lobos, New Mexico has only finished one season with a wining percentage below .575.
The Spartans will follow up their season opener with a game against Oregon State who is coming off of an impressive 45-win season and a College World Series berth. Oregon State is coached by Pat Casey, who is in his 20th season with the Beavers--and Oregon State has now hit the 40-win mark for four seasons in-a-row.
MSU will finish up their challenging opening weekend with a non-conference clash against a fellow Big Ten snowbird, (and probably also sun-burnt by Sunday) Northwestern.
Coming off of a 31-26 season, the Spartans boast a veteran core for 2015. Senior Blaise Salter is a 6'5" 260-pound catcher/DH with some legitimate power. Salter led the Spartans last season with 50 RBIs and also in extra base hits with 5 homeruns and 22 doubles. Salter will look to spend more time behind the plate this season and how he does defensively will be key to the Spartans' success. Ryan Krill, a 6'4" 235-pound senior first baseman, only hit .234 last season but Krill, an academic All-Big Ten selection, reportedly showed strong progress in the fall. The highest upside player the Spartans feature is Cam Gibson, son of former Detroit Tiger and MSU alum Kirk Gibson. The junior outfielder hit .315 as a sophomore, walked more than he struck out, 32 BB-31 Ks, and had a .405 on base percentage. Gibson stole 16 bases in 21 attempts last season and has been timed as fast as 6.4 in the 60. Senior centerfielder Anthony Cheky will also provide some speed for the Spartans. Cheky hit .273 last season and stole 29 bases in 35 attempts. The Spartans also feature experience at shortstop in 5th-- year senior Ryan Richardson. Richardson started all 57 games last season at shortstop for MSU and hit .278 with 26 RBIs. A true gamer, Richardson also got plunked a team-leading 14 times last season and stole 13 bases. An interesting Spartan to keep an eye on will be 5th year-senior third baseman Mark Weist. Weist, who transferred in from Spring Arbor University, hit a very strong .392 with 8 homeruns at the NAIA level in 2013 and is now in his first season with the Spartans.
The Spartan experience doesn't stop with the position players. Senior right-hander Mick VanVossen was 8-3 with a 2.95 ERA last season and led the Spartans with 99 innings pitched. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Cam Vieaux is coming off of an All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection after transitioning from the bullpen to a starting role. Vieaux put up an impressive freshman campaign with a 6-5 record, a 3.18 era, and 57 strikeouts in 70.2 innings pitched against only 18 walks. Left-hander and red-shirt senior Jeff Kinley anchors the Spartan bullpen and set a school record with 13 saves last season. In 30 appearances out the pen, Kinley put up a 2.45 era while striking out 22 batters in 36.2 innings pitched. Also expected to be in a starting role is junior Anthony Misiewicz who in 29 appearances last season held opposing batters to only a .228 average.
So, let's play ball!
And Go Spartans