Cool, Calm Contenders Move On in D1

June 16, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Wildly effective, and his record is deceptive.

Both phrases accurately described Warren DeLaSalle sophomore Nino Puckett as he pitched – and won – the biggest game of his life Thursday.

Puckett entered the Division 1 Semifinal against Traverse City West with more losses than wins this spring – and then put together a pitching line that included seven walks but only two hits as the Pilots advanced with a 3-1 win over the Titans.

In fact, Puckett had just two wins entering the postseason before doubling that total with victories in the District and Regional.

But all of this requires some additional perspective – all five of Puckett’s losses came in Detroit Catholic League play, as his team finished only fourth in the Central division while playing a combined nine games against either top-ranked Birmingham Brother Rice or reigning Division 2 champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. And he and his teammates certainly benefited from the tough competition.

“We went through our growing pains early on. A great league like we play in, it puts us in a position for games like today to not be able to shy away from the moment,” said DeLaSalle coach Matt Cook, who previously took a team with a sub-.500 record to the Division 1 Final in 2012. “Our guys were loose and having fun. They just keep doing it.”

The unranked Pilots (27-13) will play for their first MHSAA championship since 2009 against No. 2 Saline at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. 

Puckett and another sophomore, Easton Sikorski, have been the team’s aces this season. Sikorski came in to throw the final inning and get the save Thursday, and he’ll be on the mound Saturday.

Cook let Puckett know Monday that he’d be first up. 

“I was just trying to stay calm, do my daily routine,” Puckett said. “I was excited to pitch this game.

“That’s how his demeanor is all the time, and I think to be a pitcher in a situation like this, when he’s calm, cool and collected, his teammates feed off of it too,” Cook said. “The defense doesn’t get nervous when he walks a guy. He doesn’t get nervous when he walks a guy.”

West (41-3) struck first when junior Gavin Garmhausen drove home senior Nick Brzezinski in the third inning.

But Puckett wasn’t rattled. In fact, he didn’t give up another hit.

Sophomore Jake Badalamenti, meanwhile, continued to up the reputation of the Class of 2019 with a two-run single to give the Pilots a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning. The seniors added insurance in the sixth inning, when designated hitter Mike Kostuch drove home second baseman Matt Held.

Badalamenti was the only player on either team with multiple hits, reaching safely in both of his at bats. Another shining sophomore, West’s Ryan Hayes, struck out four and gave up only six hits in tossing a complete game for the Titans, who were playing in an MHSAA Semifinal for the first time.

West, ranked No. 9 heading into the postseason, beat two top-four teams on the way to East Lansing.

“We broke a lot of records this year. Winning 41 games, they’ve just competed this whole tournament, all year long,” West coach Matt Bocian said, “I have to tip my cap to my players for not giving up all day today, and all tournament.”

Click for the full box score.

Saline 5, Hartland 3

Saline senior Josh Nelson has become quite effective relieving pressure-packed situations for one of Michigan’s top high school teams.

Add champion slayer to his body of work as well.

Nelson threw the final 4 1/3 innings of Thursday’s second Semifinal, holding reigning Division 1 champion Hartland to two runs, and drove home the tying run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.

One run had scored and the bases were loaded when Nelson came into the game with two outs in the third inning and got a strikeout to end the Eagles’ rally.

"This is the third time this baseball tournament that I’ve come in with the bases loaded. I’ve become used to it, but it’s always stressful,” Nelson said. “But I was just glad that I was able to have the opportunity to help my team win a Semifinal and go to the state championship.” 

Saline (35-6) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, but Hartland edged back over the next few with a run in the third and two in the top of the fifth. Nelson’s sacrifice brought home the first of three Saline runs that put the Hornets ahead and then the game out of reach in the sixth inning. 

Senior shortstop Thomas Miller, sophomore first baseman Cole Daniels and junior designated hitter Kellan Huang all had two hits for Saline, and senior right fielder Richard Hovde drove in two runs.

Hartland senior John Baker, a star of last season’s championship run, had two hits and drove in a run for the No. 10 Eagles (36-6-1). 

Last year’s title was the first for Hartland, and Saline is seeking the same. The Hornets have played in four championship games previously, and most recently in 2010, but have yet to end victorious.

“We’re forgetting about that,” Nelson said, “and we’re going to win a state title.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Warren DeLaSalle's Nino Puckett prepares to deliver a pitch during Thursday's first Division 1 Semifinal. (Middle) Saline's Cole Daniels slides in safely as Hartland catcher Cade Martin tries to make the tag during the second Semifinal.

Longtime Chelsea High School Administrator, Coach Bush to Join MHSAA Staff as Assistant Director

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 21, 2022

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.

Brad BushBush, 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.