EAST LANSING – A big opening inning produced two positive results for the Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep baseball team Friday.
Seven early runs helped propel the Irish to an 11-1 six-inning win over Marlette in a Division 4 Semifinal at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium.
The opening surge also provided the opportunity to have starter Sam Shea pitch in Saturday’s 5 p.m. Final against Marine City Cardinal Mooney.
Shea threw only 23 pitches in the first inning, as he was quickly replaced by Alex Blasen.
“It did work out for us,” first-year Hackett coach Smiley Verduzco said. “The whole idea as we talked about before was that first inning. If we get close to 10 (runs) then you have a chance, and without that you don’t have a chance to do that because you have to win the game. There is no tomorrow.
“Sam was pitching fantastic, and then Alex came in and just shut them down. He did a great job.”
Blasen allowed only one run on two hits over the final five innings. He struck out four and walked four.
The fifth-ranked Irish (30-9) tallied those seven early runs on only two hits. They were aided by an error and walks.
After a leadoff triple by Steven Widger, who had a game-high three hits, and a pair of walks, Brenden Collins drove in a pair of runs with a single.
“We like to score a lot of runs, and when we came out and got that seven it was huge for momentum,” Collins said. “We knew it was crucial to get them down early so that we could roll over them and get to the win.”
Said Verduzco: “Did you see the energy (after the triple)? It just pumps the kids up, and let’s go. Then things started to happen. It was pretty fun to watch, and they have earned it. They’ve worked hard all year, and to get a win against a good team, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Marlette’s starter didn't get out of the first inning after walking four and hitting a batter.
“The first inning was a killer; that was very disappointing,” said Marlette coach Dave Hayden, whose team was making its first appearance in the Semifinals.
“We knew after that first inning that it would be very difficult to come back on them. I thought we settled down after that, but the first inning kind of did us in.”
The Irish added two more runs in the third inning. Widger ripped an RBI single and then scored on a wild pitch.
The Red Raiders scored in the top of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Aaron Bower. He brought home Cody Hayden, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning.
Hackett ended the game in the sixth after a pair of singles and a ground out scored a pair of runs.
The Irish, who are averaging 10 runs a game in the postseason, will attempt to win their first Finals title in their first trip.
“We worked hard to get our school here for the first time, and now everyone is watching you,” Collins said. “It’s kind of cool that we can put our school on the map like that.”
Marine City Cardinal Mooney 12, Maple City Glen Lake 2
Cardinal Mooney continued its impressive postseason run with another lopsided affair.
The Cardinals scored in bunches early en route to a 12-2 five-inning victory over Maple City Glen Lake in the second Division 4 Semifinal.
Mooney (28-6), which will face Hackett in the Final, has outscored its six postseason opponents by a combined 71-8.
“It’s let's get out in front and never let go,” said Cardinals sophomore Blake Lutzky, who went 2-for-3 with four RBI and a run scored. “Never let off the gas.”
Mooney jumped out to a comfortable lead by scoring four runs in the second inning and adding another three in the following inning.
That was just the cushion starting pitcher Thomas Gill needed as he went the distance and scattered five hits while recording five strikeouts.
“When Tommy Gill, our senior pitcher, gets a run or two, it seems like seven runs,” Mooney coach Mike Rice said. “And in these types of games, I want to get seven or eight runs, but when he’s on the mound and throws first-pitch strikes and with our defense, it makes us unstoppable.”
Rice has been pleased with his team’s approach at the plate, as well as its ability to produce timely hitting.
Mooney totaled 12 hits and walked 10 times.
“We’re hitting, and we’re focusing on hitting strikes and not swinging at bad pitches,” Rice said. “The pitcher’s goal is to throw the ball over the plate, and when he does we’re raking it.”
The early deficit was too much for eighth-ranked Glen Lake (27-8) to overcome.
“You can't fall behind against a team like that because they are too good,” Glen Lake coach Kris Herman said. “They are ranked No. 2 in the state for a reason. If you dig yourself in a hole like that, then you have to fight your way out of it.
“I was proud of our fight. I thought they kept grinding, and we just ran into a better team.”
Glen Lake’s fight came in the fifth when they trimmed the deficit to 7-2.
However, in the bottom of the inning, Mooney countered with five runs of its own to end the game.
“We let go a little bit, and we thought we had the game in the bag,” Lutzky said. “But they scored two, and we just put them back on the board. There’s a lot of positive energy on this team, and we’re ready to play all the time.”
Trent Rice, Rocco Comito and Julian Iodice also had two hits each for Mooney.
PHOTOS: (Top) A Hackett Catholic Prep hitter keeps his eyes on a drive during Friday’s Semifinal win. (Middle) Cardinal Mooney’s Julian Iodice eludes a tag to score at McLane Stadium.
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.