By Andy Sneddon
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Beal City did something it hadn’t done in a long time, relatively speaking.
New Lothrop did something for the first time, ever.
Junior Grant Steinborn struck out four and danced out of trouble on several occasions Saturday as New Lothrop won its first MHSAA baseball championship with a 5-0 win over Beal City in the Division 4 Final at McLane Baseball Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.
Steinborn managed to escape trouble despite surrendering seven hits and walking two. He stranded eight Beal City runners, and three times the Aggies (36-4) left two on.
“He’s a very durable pitcher,” fourth-year New Lothrop coach Keith Villano said. “No question, his mechanics are sound. The No. 1 thing about Grant is he’s a gamer, and there’s no question in my mind that he was going to go out and throw strikes and let our defense take care of the work. We’ve got a good defensive team as well, and it just worked out.”
Beal City, which lost in the 2013 Final to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, 3-2 in eight innings, committed three errors.
“We did something we haven’t done in three weeks – booted the ball all over the yard, and they capitalized on it,” Beal City coach Brad Antcliff said. “Can’t fault New Lothrop. They put the ball in play. They worked the pitch count.
“We had runners on, and we had some base-running errors. Just didn’t get the big hit when we needed it. They’d get a bleeder in; we’d hit a bunch right at them. It was like the baseball gods were not with us today.”
New Lothrop got two hits apiece from Brodie Bennett and Quentin Taylor. Bennett’s two-out single in the second inning broke a scoreless tie.
The Hornets (34-6) extended their lead to 4-0 with a three-run fourth inning, during which they got RBI singles from Kyle Chappelle and Steven Garza and a run-scoring double from Taylor. Jake VanCleve drove in New Lothrop’s final run with a two-out single in the seventh.
“It’s our first (MHSAA title) for baseball, and it’s a great feeling,” Steinborn said. “We (used) our coach’s philosophy, which is throw strikes, put the ball in play, and play defense. Brought home a banner, and a ring. That’s a great feeling.”
Villano said he had an inkling the 2014 season could be special after the Hornets went to the Quarterfinals in 2012 and Semifinals a year ago.
“I had a great feeling coming into this year,” he said. “It was a very difficult journey coming through the tournament. We had to go through a lot of tough teams, but these guys are tough.
“And I told them earlier, I said ‘Chew on some nails today.’ And they went out there and they were gritty. They’re a gritty team, and they’re going to go out there and they’re going to fight. And they don’t give up. They don’t let the little things bother them. They just keep going, they pick each other up and that usually translates into wins.”
Kurt Gross allowed one run on two hits over two innings pitched in taking the loss. Antcliff removed him after Gross hit Steven Garza leading off the third inning, replacing his starter with standout Ty Rollin. Rollin had earned the Semifinal win with four innings of two-hit pitching as Beal City’s defeated Kalamazoo Christian 11-1 on Friday.
Rollin allowed four runs on eight hits in the Final. He struck out five and walked two.
“We wanted Kurt to give us as much as he could, and he threw very well and I just went with my gut and said ‘Let’s get Ty in and see what happens,’” Antcliff said. “It was a tough call, and I had to make it.
“Baseball’s a funny game. We played well; we didn’t play great. And you have to come down here and play great. You can’t walk people. You can’t hit people. When you get the opportunity to score, you have to score. New Lothrop did that, and we didn’t.”
PHOTOS: (Top) New Lothrop players celebrate their first MHSAA baseball championship. (Middle) Hornets junior Grant Steinborn threw a shutout and struck out four Saturday.
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.