Foley lives up to hype in Division 3 baseball by winning first state title

By: Mike Moore | Madison - Park News | Published June 28, 2011

 Foley left fielder Luke Ortel and Dan Zuchowski (7) start the celebration of a D-3 state title after Ortel caught the final out on a fly ball. Foley beat Bridgman 8-2 to win the school’s 
first baseball championship.

Foley left fielder Luke Ortel and Dan Zuchowski (7) start the celebration of a D-3 state title after Ortel caught the final out on a fly ball. Foley beat Bridgman 8-2 to win the school’s first baseball championship.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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BATTLE CREEK — On March 15, it officially began.

Everything made possible now originated way back then.

There would be countless hours of work, some of it seemingly tedious.

There would be weekends spent in a batting cage reviewing the simplest aspects of a swing. Other days, on the field behind the school, battling ground balls on rain-soaked dirt.

The belief and hope all along was that this would be worth it.

On June 18, it certainly was.

“On that day, the first of tryouts, I told these guys to evaluate themselves and the type of baseball player they were,” Madison Heights Bishop Foley coach Buster Sunde said. “I told them when the final day of the season arrived, we would evaluate again and see how far we’d come. The goal was to get a little better every single day. I think we climbed that ladder.”

Sunde spoke just moments after his team had wrapped up the program’s first baseball title ever with an 8-2 win against Bridgman High in the Division 3 final at C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek.

Despite a 9:30 a.m. start time, the Ventures were alive and well right from the start, scoring twice in the first inning, five times in the second and once more in the third.
And while the offense sputtered a bit as the game wore on, pitcher Daniel Zuchowski only got stronger.

The senior right-hander allowed just one earned run on six hits in six innings of work. He struck out six batters, walked none and got out of the only real jam of the day in the sixth inning with back-to-back ground-ball outs when the bases were loaded.

Quite simply, the Ventures lived up to their billing as the top team in D-3, a ranking they had held since the first weeks of spring.

“It’s a great feeling, I mean, I’m speechless,” Zuchowski, who went 12-1 on the season, said with a smile. “We felt like we were the best team in the state, and to go out and win this for the program is awesome.”

“Everything you work for all year, the three-hour practices, hitting in a cage and so on, it’s all worth it,” junior catcher Brett Sunde said.

Asked if there was any added pressure being the No. 1-ranked team most of the year, Brett Sunde just smiled.

“We wanted to be on top,” he said. “That’s why you put in the work we did.”

Foley ended the year 39-3, and the state title was made even sweeter considering how close the guys came in 2010, eventually losing to Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard in the state semifinals. The three total losses since last June is just one example of the Ventures’ dominance all year, as was a five-game shutout streak and a string of eight games where they didn’t commit an error.

“I’ve always told the guys that pressure is for teams that don’t prepare,” Buster Sunde said. “When it came to game time, these guys were ready to battle. We knew if there was a team out there that was going to beat us, it had to be a great team.”

Buster Sunde smiled as he spoke. It was a smile fueled by what had transpired the previous two hours and strengthened by the knowledge that his team had no equal in 2011.

“This season was amazing,” he said. “To see the kids accomplish the goals they set out to do, that’s the championship for me. But to get this program its first title ever, that’s pretty awesome.”

He paused, still smiling.

“We hope it’s only the start of something special around here.”
 

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