ALTON — Edwardsville pitted its offense against Alton's pitching on Thursday at Gordon Moore Park. In the end the offense won out.
The Tigers posted a 6-1 win over the Redbirds to improve to 7-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Southwestern Conference. Alton dipped to 6-2 and 0-1 on the league slate.
AHS threw its ace in 6-foot-8 lefty Bryan Hudson. Hudson was 3-0 and hadn't surrendered a run yet on the season entering Thursday. The Tigers changed that in the third inning and it was EHS shortstop Jordan Hovey proving to be the catalyst.
Hovey sparked a four-run third by stroking a triple into left center field. Hovey knows first hand of Hudson's prowess. He went hitless against the phenom southpaw last season, including a three strikeout game.
"He's got good stuff. He had my number last year every game,” Hovey said. “I was trying to make an adjustment and I happened to get a pitch I could handle and got a good swing on it. I just had to stay on the ball. He's got a really good breaking ball. That's what makes him that elite guy, so I was just trying to stay on that pitch and the first at-bat I rolled over and then I got a fastball over the plate and was able to hit it.”
Edwardsville head coach Tim Funkhouser gave credit to Hudson, but also credited the approach of his hitters on Thursday.
“Our guys just try to battle in there,” Funkhouser said. “Obviously he's a dominant style pitcher and we just tried to compete and we put a couple swings on some pitches he left over the plate and Hovey getting that triple (in the third) was a big jump start. We wish we could have added more in the fifth. We were fortunate to get the big run inning the third, but he makes it tough on our hitters. His curveball is exceptional and his fastball getting on top of you. He's a great competitor on top of that.”
Alton head coach Todd Haug said it was just two good teams and Edwardsville won the battle on Thursday, but there is plenty left of the war between the two squads in 2015. They met three times last year, splitting during the regular season and the Tigers prevailing 1-0 in an instant regional final classic.
“Two good teams,” Haug said. “One team played a little bit better than other. It’s early, that’s what we’ll take away from this. We would rather this happen now than the end of May.”
Through the first two innings Hudson was dealing, a walk to Jake Garella as the only blemish on his stat line.
Hovey's triple in the third changed that. A leadoff walk to Bailey Zimmer was followed with a strikeout, but then Hovey blasted the gap shot and motored for third, scoring Zimmer and making it 1-0. Next Hudson was called for a balk, allowing Hovey to walk home and make it 2-0.
Collin Clayton then singled, but was picked off by Hudson. Aaron Jackson got an infield single and Matthew Zielonko doubled him home. Zielonko then stole third, but the throw sailed into the outfield, letting him score to elevate it to 4-0.
It was an inning Haug had never seen during Hudson's time with the Birds.
“I'm not going to make excuses, but I've never seen that before,” Haug said. “I've never had to go get him so we were in a little unchartered territory. Fundamentally his mechanics were a little fouled up. His curveball was a little flat and there were a few things. Quite honestly there were some goofy stuff going on if you were watching the game and it got in everybody's head a little bit and we got distracted a little bit. All-in-all he battled back and he had a good ending to his start, but we wish we could have had a better result there in that third inning.”
The goofy stuff Haug referred to was Hudson being told to remove a compression sleeve he had on his arm by the umpires in the second inning that may or may not effected him.
Overall, he threw 90 pitches over five innings, walking four, fanning seven, surrendering five hits — four in the third inning — and gave up four runs, three earned.
On the other side, Edwardsville starter Daniel Lloyd kept the Alton offense off balance. Lloyd allowed three hits over four innings, a pair of singles by Derrick Allen and Jacob Skrabacz in the third and a double to Aaron Bonnell in the fourth.
Hudson lined a ball into Lloyd's hamstring to start the fourth, his last inning. Funkhouser admitted lifting Lloyd was precautionary.
“(Lloyd) is excellent,” Hovey said. “He and coach (Mike) Waldo are always working and changing speeds on guys and we get outs. Whether its strikeouts, fly outs or ground outs, we get outs. He's really good.”
Alton got its lone run in the sixth when Hudson tattooed a home run to right center field off of Garella, who relieved Lloyd. That cut the deficit to 4-1, but the Tigers quickly answered.
Clayton started the seventh with a triple off of AHS reliever Ben Cusac and Jackson doubled him home to make it 5-1. Fahd Shakeel singled home Jackson to make it 6-1.
EHS was without SIUE-bound catcher Brock Weimer. Weimer is set to have surgery for a torn meniscus and his out for the foreseeable future.
“He's a big hit, but we're going to keep battling every day,” Hovey said. “He might come back and he might not, so we're just going to play it day by day.”
The Redbirds will now look to regroup after losing back-to-back games. They are back on the diamond at 1 p.m. Monday against Freeport on the road.
EDWARDSVILLE 6, ALTON 1
EDWARDSVILLE 0 0 4 0 0 0 2 — 6 9 1
ALTON 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 — 1 4 1
ALTON (6-2, 0-1) — Steven Nguyen 0-3 HBP, Brendan Phillips 0-2 BB, Bryan Hudson 1-3 HR RBI, Aaron Bonnell 1-3 2B, Derrick Allen 1-2 BB, Jacob Skrabacz 1-3.
LP — Hudson 5.0IP 5H 4R 3ER 4BB 7K
Ben Cusac 2.0IP 4H 2R 2ER 0BB 3K 1HBP
EDWARDSVILLE (7-0, 2-0) — Jordan Hovey 2-4 3B SB RBI, Collin Clayton 2-3 3B BB SB, Aaron Jackson 2-3 2B RBI, Matthew Zielonko 1-4 2B RBI, Fahd Shakeel 1-4 SB RBI, Jake Garella 1-3 2B BB, Mitchell Krebs 0-2 HBP, Bailey Zimmer 0-2 BB.
WP — Daniel Lloyd 4.0IP 3H 0R 0ER 1BB 8K
SV — Garella 3.0IP 1H 1R 1ER 1BB 5K