EAST LANSING – Pitching and defense have been staples of the Grand Blanc baseball team during its postseason push.
Those two elements combined with timely hitting to help carry the Bobcats to an 8-3 victory over Portage Central in Saturday’s Division 1 Final at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium.
Grand Blanc allowed only seven runs over its seven postseason games.
“That’s been our MO most of the year and definitely through this playoff run for sure,” Bobcats coach Kevin Hubbs said. “We’ve counted on several kids, and today it was (pitcher) Nate Helms, and our defense has been stellar.
“We know that will keep us in any ball game, and the last couple games our bats have come alive, too. We’re a tough ball club when we’re clicking on all cylinders like that.”
The win capped off a season of firsts for the Bobcats (33-11), beginning with their first Regional title.
“We played an extremely tough schedule all season long, especially nonconference, to get to this point,” Hubbs said. “We knew we would take some lumps along the way, but we knew it would prepare our kids ultimately to play in games like this.”
Grand Blanc senior center fielder Jonah Meleski, who had a hit and scored two runs, said the team peaked at the right time.
“This postseason has been insane, and we haven't given up very many runs at all,” he said. “The pitching has been dominant, and everyone defensively has been locked in.
“We’ve always been a good team, and we played the best competition in the state. We were always looking for competition, and we didn’t settle for easy wins. That’s why we are here, and this couldn't be any better, especially as a senior.”
Freshman Nathan Fidelino’s two-out RBI bloop single gave the Bobcats a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Moments later, Hunter Ames scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
On defense, Grand Blanc left fielder AJ Maxwell made an amazing diving catch in the bottom of the inning to prevent at least one run from scoring.
“That was huge,” Hubbs said. “He doesn't catch that ball, then it’s a triple and a 2-1 ball game. It changed the momentum and kept it in our favor.”
The Bobcats broke it open in the fifth with six runs on five hits. They also took advantage of two Portage Central errors to go ahead 8-0.
“Everyone got hot at the right time, and everyone took their job seriously,” Meleski said. “It was just a great moment, and the momentum shifts completely.”
Grand Blanc made a habit of grabbing early leads and not relinquishing them.
“We haven’t played from behind yet this entire postseason run,” Hubbs said. “Our kids only know how to play with a lead, so it gets tough on other teams when we are playing like that with a lead.”
Helms, a junior, was brilliant on the mound until the sixth inning, when the Mustangs (35-5) touched him up for three runs.
Luke Leto scored on an infield single and Gavin Brasosky belted a two-run homer over the right field fence.
“That’s the character of this team,” Mustangs coach Cory DeGroote said. “They were frustrated, but they didn’t quit. They didn’t like the fifth inning, either, and I love that.
“The (six total) errors were uncharacteristic of us to have those happen, but that’s baseball, and we just couldn't figure their pitcher out. We couldn’t get good swings and string anything together.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Blanc players welcome teammate Hunter Ames (24) back to the dugout during Saturday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) Grand Blanc’s AJ Maxwell leaps for a run-saving catch in left field.
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.