Published June 18, 2012
Foley baseball states its case as best in D-3, repeats as state champ
By Mike Moore firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Mike on Twitter.
BATTLE CREEK — Simply, the best.
From start to finish.
From June 2011 to June 2012, the Madison Heights Bishop Foley baseball team made its case as the team to beat in all of Division 3, a champion to be feared on any day or night.
And in the end, that’s exactly what it was.
“Honestly, I felt like I had pretty good technique,” senior catcher Brett Sunde said of his form on the tackle of pitcher Brad Bayliss as the celebration officially began following Foley’s 8-2 victory over Lansing Catholic in a June 16 D-3 final at C.O. Brown Stadium.
Sunde, an All-State catcher who was recently drafted by the Oakland Athletics, gave up his senior season with the football team to focus squarely on baseball.
You would have never known it seeing his tackle on Bayliss, who stymied Cougars hitters most of the night while running his season record to 16-0.
He was perfect this season, and the rest of the Ventures were pretty close to it, as well.
“I’m so happy for these guys,” coach Buster Sunde said after the win, one that ended Foley’s season with a 38-3 overall record. “There’s so much work that goes into this, so many hours of practice and so much we demand out of them. To get here and earn this shows that it’s all worth it. That’s where my satisfaction comes from, seeing them earn something like this.”
Buster Sunde said very similar things in 2011 about a team that went 39-3 and beat Bridgman High 8-2 in the D-3 final.
That team, with its senior-loaded and battled-tested roster, was expected to win.
This year’s team was younger and by many accounts, even from the coach and his players, less talented.
But the expectations remained.
Foley opened the season ranked No. 1 in D-3, and few would have predicted any other team to dethrone the guys in black, gold and white.
But between the chalk lines, rankings and predictions carry very little weight.
“I don’t know if we felt any added pressure,” said sophomore Garrett Schilling, who finished the championship weekend with a bevy of hits and five RBI. “Teams came at us, as we know they would, and we expected it. We just maintained our work ethic all season, and as the games got bigger, we came closer together.”
“You know, we preach one play, one at-bat, one game at a time,” Buster Sunde said when asked about the mounting expectations as the 2012 season began. “Our focus is always on what’s coming next. If you hit two bombs in one game, that’s great, but what are you going to do you’re next at-bat.”
Practicing what their coached preaches, the Ventures entered the D-3 final one day after dominating Saginaw Nouvel 6-2 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close at the final suggests.
Brett Sunde kicked off the late-afternoon final with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first.
“I kind of knew as soon as I hit it,” Brett Sunde said smiling. “It was pitch I like, and I got a good swing on it.”
By the time the dust settled on the first frame, the writing was on the wall.
Foley bumped the lead to 4-0 by the end of the third, and although Lansing Catholic cut the deficit to 4-2 in the fifth inning, the lead was never seriously in doubt.
“When there were two outs in the seventh, I started thinking about it, about winning back-to-back titles,” Schilling said with a smile. “It still hasn’t totally sunk in yet, though. Its just incredible.”
“At the beginning of the year, you have things you hope for, but you never really know,” Brett Sunde said of the 2012 season, one that included a Catholic League title. “I mean, we lost so much from last year’s team. We weren’t supposed to be as talented, but we knew we had a chance to be a great team.”