Tyler Sager isn’t worried about jinxes. He’s worried only about the next hitter.
So, it’s safe to talk about the fact that, after a win Monday against Mount Morris, the Chesaning senior hadn’t allowed a hit since April 11.
Four starts. Four no-hitters.
If not for the incredible success of his own team, that would be the MHSAA record for consecutive no-hitters. The second one, however, came in a 19-0, three-inning win against Durand, and games must go five innings to count for the record books.
“It’s motivating to a point, but at the same time, I can’t go out there every time like I have to throw a no-hitter today,” Sager said. “I’m just going to go out there, throw hard and see what happens. The goal every game is to get through five and set it up for the back-end guys.”
Sager, an honorable mention all-state selection a year ago, is off to a torrid start this spring. He’s thrown 35 innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out 92. In his two starts that didn’t end as no-hitters, he struck out 19 and 20 batters.
The MHSAA record for consecutive no-hitters is three, held by six pitchers. Coleman’s Ryan Hasenfratz has the record for most no-hitters in a season at six, which he set in 2005. Three pitchers hold the career mark at eight.
Not including the three-inning no-no, Sager has five career no-hitters, as he threw two as a junior.
“He does a real good job of hitting his spots, and honestly, he’s been able to overpower people here lately,” said Chesaning coach, and Tyler’s dad, Robert Sager. “Being able to hit his spots the way he does really helps, and he’s able to keep hitters off balance a little bit. When he’s able to bust them inside, he’s pretty tough. Then he’s started throwing a slider in there, and that’s really helped him.”
Tyler expected big things from himself coming into the season. But even he’s a bit surprised by this level of success.
“After last year, I was really excited to get back,” he said. “I was honorable mention all-state last year as a pitcher, and we have an all-state wall (at the school), and it’s been one of my goals ever since high school started – my dad (football) and aunt (Melissa Sager, softball) are up there, and I want to be up there with them. So I’ve always had those goals, and I wanted to get better, but I didn’t think I’d start this hot.”
The team is also off to a hot start, going 14-1-1 and allowing a total of three runs over its past six games.
That hasn’t changed the goals for Chesaning, although it may have given the players a bit more confidence to achieve them. Winning a Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title, winning a District title and competing for a Regional championship were always on the board, and remain so.
Tyler Sager admitted that won’t be easy, as perennial contender New Lothrop is in both the conference and the District, and Hemlock as well is in the District. A doubleheader with New Lothrop is scheduled for May 19.
“Coming in, I thought we’d be good,” Tyler said. “We’re really young. The main group of our team, when we were younger, (Robert Sager) was our little league coach, too. He’s kind of always been there coaching-wise for a lot of us. We’ve been pretty hot lately, and it’s been fun. But I can’t say I expected to be 14-1-1.”
After his senior season concludes, Sager will move on to Northwood University, where he has signed to play baseball. And, for the first time, he’ll be able to focus all of his attention on pitching, as he also plays football and basketball for Chesaning.
“Personally, I think (Tyler’s ceiling) is pretty high,” Robert Sager said. “Being a three-sport athlete, he hasn’t been able to only focus on it, so there’s still a lot that he’ll develop and a lot he’ll improve on when he goes to Northwood and they really start working with him on pitching and being a pitcher.”
Tyler Sager is excited for the opportunity, too, but his focus remains on this season. On the next hitter.
“I’ve always kind of thought that if I can only play baseball, that obviously I would get a lot better in the first year or two, just because I haven’t been able to focus on one thing,” he said. “But, honestly, I haven’t thought too much about it yet.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Chesaning pitcher Tyler Sager makes his move toward the plate. (Middle) Sager looks in for the sign from his catcher. (Photos courtesy of the Chesaning baseball program.)
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.