Foley’s loss in regional final caps four years of brilliance

By: Mike Moore | Madison - Park News | Published June 13, 2014

 Austin Lukaschewski was one of three seniors to play varsity the past four years. In that span, Foley had a 146-12-1 record and won three state titles.

Austin Lukaschewski was one of three seniors to play varsity the past four years. In that span, Foley had a 146-12-1 record and won three state titles.

File photo by Deb Jacques

MADISON HEIGHTS — This was a run that redefined greatness.

This was a journey that rewrote record books and reshaped what supremacy in high school baseball will forever be measured against.

It’s long been said one can’t fully appreciate something until it’s gone, but that’s hardly the case when it comes to the Madison Heights Bishop Foley baseball program and the voyage the Ventures rolled through for the past four springs.

Dominant at every turn.

State champs, three times over.

“I guess it really started six years ago when we tried to put into place a system of doing things the right way and preaching to kids what is the right way,” coach Buster Sunde said. “It was a matter of implementing things the way we felt were correct. And at the same time, we’ve been blessed with some very talented and hard-working young men.”

The payoff was almost immediate.

In Sunde’s second season, the Ventures made the Division 3 state semifinals, eventually ending the year with a 14-5 loss to Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and a 34-8 record.

That playoff loss, on June 18, 2010, was the last for Foley before this year’s regional final against Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett.

“That’s why this game is so great; you just never know what’s going to happen,” Sunde said. “But we never took any of it for granted. We were motivated every year.”

The playoff dominance came to an end June 7 in the 5-4 loss to Liggett.

Having moved up this year from D-4, Liggett led 1-0 going into the fourth inning, and then crossed the plate four times in the frame.

But with two outs in the seventh, the hibernating Foley bats suddenly came to life.

The Ventures scored four times while down to the season’s final out, and had it not been for a stellar defensive play, would have had the bases loaded and a chance to tie things up.

“Everybody goes through it, and we lost to a very solid Liggett team,” Sunde said. “These are the games you have to be at your best, and unfortunately, we weren’t. We committed five errors or so, and (Liggett) didn’t commit any. We didn’t hit until the end, and we made some mental mistakes. We gave a good team way too much, and they did what good teams do. They beat us.”

The loss ended Foley’s hopes of a fourth straight D-3 title and the season with a 34-4 record.

“Disappointing, because we didn’t achieve our goals, which is what this is all about,” Sunde said of the year. “At the same time, and we’re not making excuses, but we had a lot of injuries and obstacles to overcome, and it was too much. We’ve been blessed with good health for five of the six years now. I think this was one of those years where we were always playing over something or getting through something. It just didn’t work out.”

In the four-year span, the Ventures went 146-12-1, a .921 winning percentage, claimed three straight Catholic League titles and became the first baseball team in MHSAA history to win three consecutive state titles.

“We had some great talents — kids that have been here for three or four years now who have worked so hard to accomplish the things we did,” Sunde said.

This year’s team featured three seniors who’ve been with the team for the past four seasons in Brad Baldwin, Garrett Schilling and Austin Lukaschewski.

“What we did the past four years is a tribute to them, for sure,” Sunde said of his three veterans. “They love the game of baseball. They play with passion. They work hard. It’s easy to coach when we have guys like that and guys like we’ve had here. They are the reason this program has been so successful.”

While the title streak may be over, there’s little doubt Foley will be a contender again in 2015.

The Ventures could return as many as four starters and nine varsity vets.

“We’ll be solid,” Sunde said. “As long as the work ethic is there, they will be the team they can be. And now, coming off a loss, it only makes you hungrier. I heard we had four guys taking batting practice the day after the Liggett game. We’ll be ready next year. They are going to be back.”