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BASEBALL: Bishop Foley survives scare, wins fourth straight regional

MADISON HEIGHTS — For Madison Heights Bishop Foley, three is the magic number.

After beating Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard by three runs in an 8-5 Division 3 regional championship game, the Ventures are now three wins away from winning their third straight state title.

But winning their fourth straight regional championship was no walk in the park, as the Ventures saw themselves down 3-0 going into the sixth inning. Bishop Foley head coach Buster Sunde, however, didn’t even come close to counting his team out.

“If went one more inning I would have been real nervous, but I was confident that we would start hitting,” said Sunde. “(Gabriel Richard) came out and got three runs (in the bottom of the fifth) and we just wanted to show what we could do too.”

To start the game the normally thunderous bats of the Ventures were kept silent by senior Gunner Gail, as their first hit of the game came in the fifth inning off junior outfielder Austin Lukaschewski’s bat.

As if a total absence of hitting wasn’t enough to put the Ventures in a hole, Gabriel Richard’s junior second baseman DJ Newlin brought home the first run of the game off an RBI single into left field. The Fighting Irish then tacked on two more runs to go up 3-0 with only two innings to go, which slightly riled up Bishop Foley’s junior pitcher Garrett Schilling.

“You can’t get panicked on the mound,” Schilling said. “Maybe I was a little frustrated, but I tried to not let it take over me.”

The luck of the Irish started to wear off in the top of the sixth inning, after a two-run double with no outs by junior designated hitter Michael Reid opened up the floodgates and gave the Ventures the confidence boost they were looking for.

“There was a bit of a sigh of relief,” Reid said. “But no sigh of relief like the one when we scored the tying run, and we knew this was our ballgame.”

That tying run came when Reid crossed the plate off a single by senior first baseman Chad Gravlin, but the Ventures still weren’t done for the inning. The Irish watched their three run lead turn into a three-run deficit after clutch hitting by junior center fielder Mike Murley and junior shortstop Brad Baldwin made the score 6-3.

Gabriel Richard head coach Greg Lanhoff attributed Foley’s offensive onslaught to a bumpy start to the inning.

“We had a bad (hop on a grounder) at short, and then a walk,” Lanhoff said. “And they are a good hitting team, you can’t give them a lot of baserunners.”

A scare for Bishop Foley fell over the air shortly after the hit parade, as Schilling went down during warmups with hamstring cramps. After a moderate delay full of stretching and hydrating, the Venture pitcher got up and threw the next two innings while allowing two runs to give him a complete-game victory.

The determination by Schilling not only let the Ventures advance to the quarterfinals, but it also impressed his head coach.

“That is what you get every single time he goes out to the mound,” Sunde said. “That is one of the reasons he is so successful in high school, because he battles.”

In the games leading up to the championship, Bishop Foley found themselves in a totally different game than the nailbiter against the Irish, as they defeated Harper Woods 17-2.

After going up 9-0 early in the game, Harper Woods showed signs of a second inning rally as they had bases loaded with no outs and two runners already home. Unfortunately for Harper Woods, the Ventures put Gravlin to get the next three hitters out without surrendering a run.

Gabriel Richard’s path was a little rockier to start, as they were down 5-2 in the first inning. The Irish eventually chipped their way back, as they topped the Monarchs 11-7 despite a late rally threat from Cabrini.

The win for Bishop Foley means more than their fourth straight regional title. It means they are one step closer to going where no school has ever gone.

If the Ventures win their next three games and capture the state championship, they will be the first baseball team in Michigan’s history to win three years in a row. Along with the rest of the coaching staff, assistant coach David Leffler plans to take their potentially historic run one day at a time.

“We try to stay loose, and it obviously pops up, but we try not to think about that stuff,” said Leffler, who also played on Bishop Foley’s 2010 semifinal team. “We try to go on a day-to-day basis.”

And with how they end practice, that is just how they do it, as they break away saying the number of games they have left as a team.

“Just one game at a time,” Sunde said. “This (game against Gabriel Richard) is a perfect example right here, they are well-coached and any team can come up and get you on any given day.”

Last Updated: 6/8/2013 8:22:34 PM EST


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