Baseball

THE THUNDERING WORD: Bossi Provides Herd Much More than a Cycle

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HUNTINGTON – The last guy from St. Louis to hit for the cycle in baseball wasn’t a Cardinal.

However, the guy is from that bleed-red passionate Major League city, and he does possess one of the national pastime’s revered names … Aaron.

So, maybe Marshall Coach Jeff Waggoner should have figured the versatile Aaron Bossi would be a gamer when the St. Louis native signed with the Herd only about two months before his freshman year began in August 2012.

“Aaron has been one of the hardest-nose players in the program since I’ve been here,” said Waggoner, whose team visits UTSA for a three-game Conference USA series Friday through Sunday. “Solid work ethic, great student, great person.

“He’s our team leader, our grinder, our vocal guy. We go when he goes. The success he’s had couldn’t happen to a better person. He’s the core of our team and he’s gotten better every year.”

Oh yeah, about that cycle … Bossi went single, triple, homer, double in Sunday’s 10-4 victory over Louisiana Tech at Appalachian Power Park … in the first six innings. He popped out in his last at-bat in the eighth.

Bossi, a senior, also had an RBI with each hit and those four made for a career high.

And his cycle – they don’t happen every day; there have been only 306 in MLB history to date — is believed to be the first in Herd baseball history.

Waggoner, in his 10th season, said he’s never seen one. Former Herd coaches Jack Cook and Dave Piepenbrink – their years date back to the mid-60s — said they don’t remember one. Past Herd media guides and record books, in a list of “last time” happenings like a no-hitter or multiple grand slams that occurred for the Herd, don’t mention a cycle.

“Only one? Wow, that’s cool,” Bossi replied when told the opinion is he had the first Herd cycle. “I’ve never had one, no. Here, I’ve barely hit home runs (four for Marshall), much less a cycle.”

MUBB 2016 Aaron Bossi in white uniform

Aaron Bossi has hit for the cycle and played well at second base for the 15-12 Herd – who plays at UTSA in San Antonio, Texas this weekend. (courtesy Herd Athletics)

But to profile Bossi’s baseball life in Waggoner’s program in four at-bats wouldn’t do him justice. A four-year starter, Bossi, 22, has played every infield position, most often at second and third.

“I played a few innings at first base my freshman year,” Bossi said, “and I’ve played some at short. I haven’t gone to the outfield yet. I had to learn to catch last year when we had some injuries. I hadn’t caught since middle school or freshman year of high school and that was just a little bit.

“I want to pitch. I’d love to play all nine positions in a game. I know they know that I could do it, it’s just the time and the place for it.”

After batting .207 and .213, respectively, in his first two Herd seasons, the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder has built himself into a hitter, averaging .306 last season and .318 so far in 2016, with two homers, 16 RBI, and six steals.

“The improvement in hitting, I think a lot of it is just maturity,” said Bossi, who gained his undergraduate degree in business management in three years and is working on his master’s. “Experience goes into that. I’ve learned what doesn’t work and obviously what I was doing the first two years wasn’t working.

“So, I just became a student of the game more. I watched more Major League games and just tried to do what they’re doing. I think now it’s just more a comfort level. I think anyone can go in there and hit, as long as they’re comfortable.

“Sure, the mechanical part of it matters, but what matters more is your mentality in there. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a lot tougher in the box and that’s helped me hit a lot better.”

Waggoner said Bossi’s grasp of the game has changed, too.

“Honestly, I think it’s his approach that’s made a difference,” the Herd coach said. “It’s just playing the game and learning to make adjustments, and his swing has gotten better, just as a whole evolution of his game has gotten better. Aaron knows how to be in the right mindset.

“He’s been through the conference. He knows what kind of pitch is thrown on what counts; he knows how to make adjustments in games. Those are things you don’t understand as a young guy. You might have a good swing as a freshman or sophomore but the key is mental and he’s come to understand the mental part of the game the last two years.”

Bossi, most often at second base and in the middle of the Herd lineup this season, wasn’t considered a Division I prospect when he starred at St. John Vianney high School in St. Louis. So, he took a junior college offer to Parkland College in Champaign, Ill.

Then came summer, and Herd assistant coach Tim Donnelly saw Bossi play.

“I wasn’t really heavily recruited, so I signed with Parkland as a second baseman/pitcher sort of deal,” Bossi said. “Then I got a call from a (summer) team I pitched against in high school, the Ohio Warhawks. They wanted me to play with them after I graduated. So, I played a few tournaments and Coach Donnelly saw me play in Memphis and got me here on a visit a few days later. I committed on my visit … Yes, it was late. I probably signed in late June.”

Bossi’s goal for the season was pretty much the same as his Herd teammates – reaching the eight-team Conference USA Tournament. Marshall hasn’t been in the field since 2010. Waggoner feels if the Herd (15-12) – at about the midway point of the season – can finish strong, it might even be able to land an elusive NCAA regional berth because C-USA is ranked in the top four in conference RPI.

Marshall has only reached the NCAA under Cook, in 1973 and ’78.

“The biggest thing now is that it’s fun, going to the field every day,” Bossi said. “Guys are expecting to win this year – not to say it wasn’t like that the last few years, but this year we know we have the makeup of a great team, top-to-bottom, and the team is just oozing confidence.

“Yeah, we stumbled (in Tuesday’s extra-inning loss to West Virginia) but I think that’s going to help the transition for how we’re going to play this weekend in Texas. We’ve got the right mindset. Personally, I just wanted to make the tournament this year, just feel what it’s like one time at least.”

The right handed-hitting Bossi took his usually aggressive mindset to the plate last Sunday. Each of his four hits came on the second pitch of his at-bats. All four went to left field. After a single in the first, triple down the line in the second and homer in the fifth, he knew what he needed.

“Honestly, I’d have been the person to run past (second base), I think, if I had an easy double, trying to get a triple,” Bossi said, smiling. “But then, yeah, for sure, when you’re up there, you know it. Once I had the home run, I knew I was only a double away.

“Anybody’s going to think about it, if it’s possible and it’s happening, so it was just trying to get a pitch up and hit it over someone’s head – and I did. I just didn’t realize how rare it was until after the game and people were talking about it.”

His line-drive double off the base of the Power Park wall made Herd history … and also gave him his first four-hit game at MU. That brought him to his last at-bat.

“I was trying to get five, and I was thinking, ‘It would be stupid if I had a five-hit game when I never had a four-hit game, never more than three,’” Bossi said. “When I came up the fifth time, the team was feeling good, we were really up, so I wasn’t too upset about making an out.”

As for the future, Bossi has some thoughts that involve both a game he loves and a path of study he has chosen.

“I’m in the MBA program, and it’s on pace for me to be able to continue the program beyond this year baseball, which is good,” he said. “After that, I haven’t decided yet because obviously just thinking about the season right now and making the tournament. There still are a lot of things I have to explore, and I’ll have to shop around for a job, for sure.

“But if I could get a job in baseball, that would be ideal because how am I going to find something that I’ve been doing, that I love? … A front office job, that would be cool. I think I’d be really good at that. I’ve got a really good mind for stuff like that, and a business mind, too.”

He also has something rare in Marshall baseball.

Until Bossi’s first four at-bats Sunday, the Herd’s only cycle was an exercise bike.

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