Early End to 2017 Drives Veteran Sturgis

May 8, 2018

By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half

All the pieces are in place for the Sturgis varsity baseball team to potentially still be playing in June.

As of Wednesday’s Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association poll, the Trojans fit in at No. 19 in Division 2, though the rankings are somewhat arbitrary as some teams on the list had played as few as four games.

But after a 19-14 season in 2017 — without a single senior on the squad — Sturgis fourth-year head coach Drew Rutenbar knew the program had an opportunity to do something special this spring.

With 11 seniors this year and a five-man junior class that made a significant impact last season, the Trojans are gunning to win a Wolverine Conference championship after finishing third in the league in 2017, which was followed by a disappointing Pre-District ouster by St. Joseph County rival Three Rivers.

“First goal on our minds right now is the Wolverine Conference,” Rutenbar said. “In my time as a coach, that’s the piece that’s missing and this group is ready to make that happen. This is a group of guys that I have heard about since they entered middle school. Last year’s season came to an abrupt stop, and we didn’t take care of what we wanted to do. These guys are all in.”

The seniors are Dalton Smith, Sam Leck, Korbin Whitcomb, Jacob Morales, Jake Abbs, Avery Cleveland, Brian Jordan, Brecken Stewart, James Campbell, Tyler Lovelace and Anthony Harper. Juniors Isaac Harper, Zach Chapman, Drew Murphy, Parker Stephens and Braydon Bathgate round out the talented roster.

At 15-2 overall and 9-1 in league play (tied with Edwardsburg atop the standings), the Trojans have upped their offensive production from last spring and outscored opponents 100-55. Seven players are hitting above .300, and not a single pitcher in the rotation has allowed more than six earned runs. Defense always has been a strength, but Sturgis adds more speed and power with this year’s lineup.

Murphy is 3-0 on the bump with a 3.51 ERA, Leck is 3-1 operating with a 1.47 ERA, Jordan and Harper are both 2-0 and Stewart, Abbs, Lovelace and Campbell all have won games, helping to preserve arms for the final stretch.

Abbs leads the team with 22 hits to go along with 13 RBI, 11 stolen bases and 16 runs scored. Murphy is hitting .396 with 19 hits and 12 RBI, Whitcomb is hitting at a .395 clip and boasts 17 hits, a pair of home runs and 12 RBI; and Stevens, who has appeared in 12 games, is hitting .452 with 14 hits and 10 RBI.

Cleveland, Morales, Leck and Bathgate all are hitting higher than .300, Stewart is pacing the squad with 17 RBI, and Whitcomb and Leck have eight steals apiece.

“We’ve been in a handful of character-building games that we had to battle back or make last at-bat comebacks,” Rutenbar explained. “Our four go-to conference pitchers have come in and taken care of business. And a big help to our success this season is being so deep with guys who can throw.

“As coaches, it’s our job to find how each team works best. This group is laid back, goofy and plays best when playing relaxed. If our dugout was quiet and we were putting pressure on them because a game might be important, they don’t play their best.”

Beyond experience, talent and atmosphere, there are sometimes other intangible factors that can take a team to the next level. Whitcomb’s expedient rehabilitation after a torn anterior cruciate ligament early in the football season has been priceless. Originally told he would not be healthy in time for his final year of baseball, Whitcomb beat those odds and has been a driving force for the Trojans both in his play and his guidance.

“It was a long five or six months,” Whitcomb said. “It was rough. I got back into weight training 2-3 months after (surgery). I’ve been working on my hitting, and I learned a couple new pitches in the offseason. We had a lot of potential last year and we had a decent season, but we could have done a lot better. That’s been our motivation for this year.”

That and simply not taking the ability to compete for granted, which Whitcomb clearly understands. The mild-mannered student-athlete has stepped up this spring to vocally ensure everyone else is on the same page.

“With 11 seniors it has been interesting to see who will really step up and lead,” Rutenbar said. “Korbin has been that guy so far for us. I think he’s just happy to be able to play baseball this season, and he’s doing everything he can to make sure they live up to their full potential.”

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at wmorgan@joeinsider.com with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Sturgis teammates congratulate Korbin Whitcomb as he heads back to the dugout during a game against Marshall on March 26 at Notre Dame University. (Middle) The Trojans enjoy a lighter moment during that doubleheader. (Photos courtesy of JoeInsider.com.)

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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.