By Andy Sneddon
Special to Second Half
BATTLE CREEK – Connor Foley saved his absolute best for last, much to the delight of longtime Bay City Western coach Tim McDonald.
Foley put on a gutsy mound performance Saturday in pitching the Warriors to a 1-0 win over Birmingham Brother Rice in the MHSAA Division 1 Final at C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek.
“Best game I’ve pitched in my life, and I couldn’t have picked a better day to do it,” said Foley, who went the distance in limiting a formidable Rice lineup to six hits while striking out four and walking one. “Every single pitch – if I wanted it on the outside corner, it was going there; if I wanted it on the inside corner, it was there.”
It was the first MHSAA baseball championship for the Warriors and the first for McDonald, who is 564-198-7 in 21 years at the school. He was recently inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“We wanted to get him his first ring,” Foley said. “He just got inducted into the hall of fame, so we wanted to give him something else to be happy about.”
Western got the game’s only run when senior Grant Bridgewater drew a two-out walk in the top of the sixth inning. Bridgewater, Western’s catcher, gave way to courtesy runner David Fegan, a sophomore, and Fegan was balked by Rice’s Dalton Greyerbiehl to second – the first of two costly Rice miscues in the late innings. On the pitch after the balk, senior Brendan Harrison smacked a solid single to center, and Fegan slid home well ahead of the throw.
The confident Foley did the rest. And, as is the case with any good pitcher, he got some help from his defense.
“Once I got that run, I knew,” he said, “I knew we were getting it.”
Foley allowed a one-out single in the sixth, but the courtesy runner was doubled off of first after a long flyout to center fielder Briton Ott to end the inning.
“Throw to contact,” Foley said of his pitching philosophy. “I’ve got a great ‘D’. I knew to throw to contact and they’d take care of it. Before the game I was telling the guys we’d probably need four or five runs because, you know, I’m pitching. But all we needed was one today. Inexplicable.”
The Warriors also had their ace in the hole, literally, with University of Michigan-bound lefthander Brett Adcock – who pitched the Warriors to a 2-1 Semifinal win over Sterling Heights Stevenson on Friday – warming up in the bullpen.
After Foley surrendered a two-out single to Bobby Cross in the bottom of the seventh, McDonald went to the mound to speak with his pitcher, but he didn’t replace him. The next hitter popped out to end the game.
“(Rice) had a left-handed hitter coming up in a couple batters, but to be honest, I don’t think I could have pulled the plug on Connor,” McDonald said. “He didn’t throw a lot of pitches. He deserved to close out a state championship.
“Adcock gets a lot of attention, (and) he deserves all of it, but Connor Foley’s been equal to the task. He’s a great complement to Brett and anybody who knows Connor will tell you you know exactly what you’re going to get. He is a gutsy kid, he’s confident and he’s got a little swagger to him, maybe, but it’s all about him wanting the ball. He wants the big game.”
And for Western, there were plenty of them this year. Saturday’s win was its 35th consecutive. Rice finished 32-8-1.
“I told the guys last night, if we had to play (Rice) in a seven-game series, we might not win,” McDonald said. “But we just had to play them once and beat them once and I’m beyond proud.
“I’ve been proud of every team I’ve coached and I’ve coached some incredible teams. But this team separated themselves. They set the bar. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to coach, but I’m not sure if we’ll ever do the things we did this year. … Maybe people can put it into perspective for me, but I don’t know what else to say about what we’ve done.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Bay City Western sophomore David Fegan slides into home for the Warriors' deciding run in a 1-0 win Saturday at Bailey Park. (Middle) Senior Connor Foley threw a complete game in earning the win on the mound for Bay City Western. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.