EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ The long wait of 33 years is over â€“ the Michigan State baseball team is back in the NCAA Tournament.
The Spartans (37-21) earned an at-large bid as a No. 3 seed in the four-team Palo Alto Regional and will play second-seeded Pepperdine on Friday at 4 p.m. EDT (1 p.m. PDT). The Waves won the West Coast Conference with a 16-8 league mark and are 34-21 overall.
This marks the fifth NCAA Tournament appearance for the Spartan baseball program and the first since 1979. MSU went to the College World Series in 1954 and also played in the NCAA Tournament in 1971 and 1978.
Stanford is the No. 1 seed in the Palo Alto Regional with a 38-16 record and will play No. 4 Fresno State (30-26) at 9 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. PDT).
The entire team and coaching staff gathered to watch the NCAA Baseball selection show in the womenâ€™s basketball team film room inside the Berkowitz Basketball Complex. After the first half of the 64-team bracket was announced, the Spartans were still waiting anxiously to hear their name called.
It finally arrived when the teams in the Palo Alto Regional were announced. And when it did, the room erupted in celebration.
In the back of the room, head coach Jake Boss Jr. and his father, Jake Sr., embraced in a long hug. They were quickly joined by Associate Head Coach Mark Van Ameyde and assistant coach Graham Sikes.
For Jake Sr., who announced prior to the Big Ten Tournament this would be his last season on the bench as a volunteer assistant coach, retirement can wait.
For his son, itâ€™s yet another milestone accomplishment for a program he inherited just four seasons ago. The Spartans won their first Big Ten title in 32 years last spring, have won at least 30 games three straight seasons for the first time in program history, and are now headed to the NCAA Tournament.
â€œThe roar from the roomâ€¦I didnâ€™t even know who we were going to play,â€ said Boss on when the teamâ€™s name appeared on the projection screen. â€œMy dad was the first guy that I saw, so I went over and hugged him. It seemed like you were getting mobbed by everybody. Five minutes later I had to ask someone who were we playing, because I barely remembered that we were going to Stanford. Just a neat moment.â€
Michigan State won 36 games last season and won the Big Ten regular-season championship, but missed out on making an NCAA Regional.
â€œI think this was the next step (getting into the NCAA Tournament),â€ said Boss. â€œI wasnâ€™t sure if we were in or not, but even if we went 0-2 in the (Big Ten) Tournament we were going to watch that selection show because I wanted our guys to get used to seeing it, and get used to expecting our name to pop up there. You look around campus, menâ€™s and womenâ€™s basketball, football, crew, womenâ€™s golf, you look up and down our athletic department, and thereâ€™s teams that are competing in NCAA Tournaments. I think we can learn an awful lot from them and learn how to compete at a national level. And we get a chance to do that, which is exciting.
â€œI think it validates all of the hard work our guys have put in and the priority that they put on every game this year, including the midweek games, including the games early where it was our first chance outside to play. That wasnâ€™t an excuse for these guys, it was just a matter of going out and trying to play well. All that just adds up to what just happened an hour ago (getting selected to the NCAA Tournament). Itâ€™s validation for our older guys; itâ€™s good for our young guys to realize thatâ€™s what it takes to continue to play. As we move forward in years to come, we have to continue that same type of attitude and same type of approach.â€
â€œIt was a great experience, and one Iâ€™ll never forget,â€ said senior co-captain Tony Bucciferro on the teamâ€™s reaction after getting selected. â€œItâ€™s unbelievable how the program has changed since I got here. Iâ€™m so excited to go out to California and see how we can do against the best teams in the nation.â€
All of the games in the Palo Alto Regional will be available to watch on ESPN3.com. All of MSUâ€™s games will also be broadcast on SpartanSportsNetwork.com.