By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
BATTLE CREEK – Bay City Western baseball coach Tim McDonald has had enough strong teams over 21 seasons to win 563 games.
Thursday night, he talked with his players about separating themselves from those previous teams by taking the program to its first MHSAA Final.
Riding the skilled left arm of senior Brett Adcock, top-ranked Western earned that opportunity by beating No. 4 Sterling Heights Stevenson 4-2 in their Division 1 Semifinal on Friday at Bailey Park.
The Warriors will face No. 6 Birmingham Brother Rice for the title at 9:30 Saturday morning.
“We knew we could make it this year,” said Adcock, a three-year varsity player who will throw next season at the University of Michigan. “It’s a great feeling to be able to get (McDonald) there, and to get us there, and to have a chance to win a state championship.”
McDonald – an All-America pitcher at Central Michigan University who was drafted by both the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics – brought teams to the Semifinals twice before. Both suffered six-run losses – 9-3 to Grosse Pointe North in 2006 and 6-0 to Saline in 2009.
Those teams and this one are three of eight he’s coached to at least 30 wins. But this team – made up of players who have been teammates or little league opponents since elementary school – is the first to eclipse the 40-win plateau. Western is 41-2.
Adcock said it’s because of an attitude instilled by his coach that keeps his players driving for more. McDonald credits “good, fundamental baseball” – aggressive base-running and clutch hitting that’s kept the Warriors from playing a bad game all spring.
Having a Division I prospect on the mound also doesn’t hurt. Adcock gave up three hits and struck out six in throwing a complete game and moving his personal record this season to 12-0.
Western scored first, in the top of the fifth inning, when senior rightfielder Brendan Taberski singled, stole second and later crossed the plate on a double steal after junior shortstop Seth Freed drew a throw by taking off for second from first.
Stevenson evened the score in the bottom of the inning, but the Warriors went ahead for good when senior catcher Grant Bridgewater singled in sophomore designated hitter Carson Eby in the sixth inning.
Titans senior Johno Rodriguez also threw well, allowing only four hits before leaving the game with one out in the sixth. Stevenson (28-9) scored its lone run when junior second baseman Dean Emanuele bunted home sophomore shortstop Riley McCauley.
“There’s been something special about this team all year, since day one,” McDonald said. “This team has separated themselves in every possible way, and hopefully we can put a pretty big exclamation mark on an incredible season.”
Birmingham Brother Rice 5, Howell 0
Brother Rice (32-8-1) scored two runs in the bottom of the third inning and wouldn’t need more as junior Matt Ruppenthal threw a four-hit shutout, striking out five without walking a batter.
He also had three hits in four at bats and an RBI for the Warriors, who will play in their first MHSAA Final since winning a title in 2008.
Junior first baseman Randy Righter also was 3-for-4, scoring two runs and driving in one. Sophomore third baseman Alex Malzone drove in two runs.
Senior Tyler Bradner was one of four Highlanders to hit safely, and he also threw an inning and an out of relief.
Howell, ranked No. 5 entering the postseason, was playing in its second straight Semifinal and finished this spring 33-8.
PHOTOS: (Top) Bay City Western senior Brett Adcock fires a pitch on the way to a complete-game victory Friday. (Middle) Brother Rice sophomore Alex Malzone hits a drive and finished with two RBI in the Warriors' win over Howell. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
Brad Bush, a highly-respected educator, administrator and coach over the last three decades, has been selected to serve in the position of assistant director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, beginning Jan. 17.
Bush, 52, taught and coached at East Kentwood High School for four years before beginning a tenure at Chelsea High School in 1997 that has included teaching, then serving as athletic director and later also assistant principal and leading the football program as varsity coach from 1997-2002 and again from 2004-18.
He also has served as a statewide delegate on the MHSAA Representative Council during the last year and provided leadership in multiple roles, including president, for the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) since 2005.
Bush will serve as the MHSAA’s lead administrator for baseball and also among lead administrators for the officials program, which includes more than 8,000 registered officials in all sports. Bush also will be assigned additional duties in other sports based on his vast experiences. He was selected from a pool of 34 applicants.
“I’m incredibly excited to have Brad join our team,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. "He’s been an outstanding athletic director and coach who is highly-respected by those who know him.”
As Chelsea athletic director, Bush annually has supervised a staff of 110 coaches across 31 programs, with nearly 70 percent of the high school’s 800 students participating in athletics. As a teacher and assistant principal, he has served on Chelsea’s School Improvement Team and on multiple committees that provided instructional leadership including in the development of the district’s new trimester schedule. In his roles with the MHSFCA, Bush helped direct an organization with more than 2,200 members and also served as the association’s treasurer and liaison to the MHSAA.
Bush is perhaps best known, however, for his coaching success. Over 22 seasons, he led Chelsea’s varsity football team to a 169-60 record, 13 league championships, 18 playoff appearances, seven District titles and a Division 3 runner-up finish in 2015. During his break in tenure as Chelsea coach, Bush served as an assistant football coach and recruiting coordinator for Eastern Michigan University during the 2003-04 school year, and he has served as an assistant coach at Albion College the last four seasons contributing to the team’s two league titles and appearance in the 2021 NCAA Division III Playoffs.
“I feel like joining the team at the MHSAA is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Bush said. “The 26 years I spent at Chelsea were some of the best times of my life. It’s a professional transition that in the back of my mind, if this opportunity came, was something I needed to do.
“Over time, I’ve grown to care about the bigger picture of athletics and appreciate the role of the MHSAA in protecting high school athletics in Michigan.”
Bush is a 1988 graduate of Ypsilanti High School. He studied and played quarterback at Cornell University before returning and graduating from EMU after majoring in history and minoring in social studies. He earned his physical education endorsement from EMU in 2000 and his master’s in physical education and sports management from EMU in 2002. He has earned continuing education credits in sports management from Drake University and completed the Path to Leadership program from the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP).
Bush was inducted into MHSFCA Hall of Fame and Ypsilanti High School Hall of Fame both in 2019. He and his wife Laura have three adult children, two daughters and a son.
PHOTO Chelsea coach Brad Bush directs his team during the 2015 Division 3 Final at Ford Field.