EAST LANSING – With a full head of steam, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett senior Matthew Greene slid into third base head first.
Greene was greeted with a big hug from coach Dan Cimini after his two-out, bases-loaded triple sealed a 12-0 five-inning win over Traverse City St. Francis in Saturday’s Division 3 Final at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium.
“We knew that we needed a couple more runs to put it away quickly, so we were really aggressive that inning and we came out and put the ball in play,” Greene said. “I just saw a fastball and rocked it, and it was great. I got up at third and he gave me a hug and said, ‘This is it, we’re state champs.’ We just needed three more outs, so it was an awesome experience.”
It was Green’s second big hit of the game. He also doubled in the fourth inning to drive in a pair of runs.
He finished the day 2-for-4 with five RBI.
“He’s a great natural hitter, and he's been like that for us all year,” Cimini said. “The double was gigantic, and the triple just iced it. We needed that.”
The second-ranked Knights (31-5) claimed the program’s sixth Finals championship, but first since 2016.
They finished runners-up in 2019, but entered this year with only two senior starters.
“We were so confident the entire year, and we just really wanted this one for our coach and for our team,” Greene said.
Liggett sophomore starter Jack Jones kept the Gladiators at bay and tossed a three-hit shutout.
He struck out six and didn’t allow a walk.
“I knew that Jack was going to throw a good game, but we just had to make sure we did our job and score runs,” Cimini said. “He pounded the strike zone and kept us in it. He gave us an opportunity to score runs.”
The Knights led 3-0 in the third inning before a 48-minute rain delay.
They didn’t let up after the halt, scoring five runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth.
“I told our team that we have got to continue to score runs, and we did that,” Cimini said. “We left no doubt.”
The Gladiators (28-10), who also finished runners-up in 2017, mustered only three hits and committed four errors.
“It doesn't matter what you do in the field if you can’t score runs,” St. Francis coach Tom Passinault said. “We really struggled with their pitcher. He had real good command of his curveball, and he was spotting his fastball. He kind of had us in knots.
“We went as far as we could, and that’s a darn good team that beat us.”
The Knights finished with 11 hits and were led by freshman Preston Barr’s 3-for-3 performance.
Freshman Reginald Sharpe went 2-for-2 with three RBI and two runs scored, while sophomore Jarren Purify also had a pair of hits.
“The guys hit the baseball, and they put pressure on them,” Cimini said. “(St. Francis) made a couple mistakes, but we were putting constant pressure on them.
“That pressure, mixed in with our big hits and Jack throwing a great game, was the recipe for a championship, and we got it today."
PHOTOS: (Top) University Liggett piles onto the pitcher’s mound after clinching the Division 3 title Saturday. (Middle) St. Francis catcher Aidan Schmuckal tries to get a tag down as a Liggett runner dives for the plate.
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.