By Andy Sneddon
Special to Second Half
BATTLE CREEK – Be it with the bunt, the big hit or anything in between, Madison Heights Bishop Foley showed – once again – it can beat an opponent myriad ways.
The Ventures pounded out 12 hits including four doubles Saturday in topping Grandville Calvin Christian, 12-5, in the Division 3 championship game.
The win gave No. 1-ranked Foley an MHSAA record three consecutive titles.
And the Ventures’ may just be hitting their stride.
“We say a couple things,” Foley coach Buster Sunde said when pointing to the keys to his program’s success. “Nobody’s going to outwork us, and on the field we’re not going to give away anything.
“And, every single game, we don’t play, really, to our opponent; we play to get better, and we want to leave the field a better team each game. That’s our focus. It’s not who we play or who’s after us or anything like that. We want to be a better team when we leave the field.”
Or the best, as has been the case in each of the past three seasons. The Ventures finished 35-2-1 and are a combined 112-8-1 since the start of 2011.
“It’s character, it really is, and that is flat-out the truth,” said Sunde, who is in his fifth season at the school. “We’ve got seniors and freshmen hanging out together. There’s a special bond, and we’ve had it year after year. You can say what you want; you can get that big lefty who throws 92, 93 (mph), but I’ll take character all the time and work with that.”
It doesn’t hurt to have some solid arms and big bats. Both were on display on Saturday at C.O. Brown Stadium.
Michael Murley and Chad Gravlin each went 3 1/3 innings on the mound for the Ventures, and Michael Reid came on to get the final out. Murley started and did not allow a hit, but he did walk five, hit a batter and allowed two runs. Gravlin surrendered three runs on four hits, while walking two. The pair combined to strike out five.
They got plenty of support. The heart of Foley’s order – Nathaniel Grys, cleanup man William Malak and Michael Reid – combined to go 5-for-8 with five RBI.
Foley’s four doubles – one each by Grys, Malak, Reid and Murley -- tied the record for doubles in an MHSAA Final.
“We swung the bats, and that’s what we’ve done all year long,” said Sunde, adding that his players may have played Saturday’s Final with a chip on their shoulders after the storyline in Foley’s 6-0 Semifinal win over Bridgman on Friday was that the Ventures had played small-ball. “I told (my players) last night in the meeting that everyone thinks you’re a small-ball team. So they had a little something in them that they wanted to show they can swing the bats.
“We had to do it a different way today. We had to do it with our bats, and I think we went out and did that.”
They did, and they served notice that they aren’t going anywhere. They will graduate just two players, Malak and Gravlin, and Sunde shows no signs of letting off the gas.
“We try to make our schedule as tough as we can,” Sunde said. “We play the toughest teams every year in our nonleague games, and I think that makes you a better team. When we need to improve at something, we work at it.
“It’s like I tell (my players): each team, every year, has gotten better as the season has gone on, and that’s how you win the state championship.
“If you stay the same team that you are in March and April, you’re not going to win. Someone will get up and get you. Next year, if we can grow as a team as our teams have in the past, and we can be the best team we can be on this day, then we have a good shot. We really do.”
Junior Jamie Bristol was the lone Calvin Christian batter to have multiple hits, finishing 2-for-4 with an RBI. The Squires did get within 3-2 heading into the bottom of the third inning before Bishop Foley scored the next six runs.
PHOTOS: (Top) Bishop Foley junior David Chung connects with a pitch during Saturday’s Division 3 Final; he finished 2-for-4. (Middle) Senior Chad Gravlin prepares to fire a pitch after coming on in relief. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)