ALTON — The Granite City Warriors didn't go away quietly Thursday at Gordon Moore Park, but in the end the Alton Redbirds pulled out a 6-3 Southwestern Conference win.
Alton improved to 14-3 overall and 5-1 in the SWC with the victory, while the Warriors sank to 6-13 and 1-6 on the conference slate.
The Redbird offense came to life on Thursday, knocking out 11 hits in the win. AHS head coach Todd Haug was happy to see the bats come to life. It's a facet of the game where the Birds are trying to build consistency.
“We had 11 hits, a lot of extra base hits,” Haug said. “I don't think we got down at all when we gave up those three runs...I think it starts with confidence. They are a confident ball club and we're stringing some wins together here. All we've preached to them from Day 1 is we don't want to peak too early. We're going to continue to teach, we're going to continue to evolve and be playing our best baseball here in about three weeks.”
The leader for the Redbirds at the plate on Thursday was junior first baseman and cleanup hitter Jacob Kanallakan. Kanallakan was 4 for 4 on the day with a double, a RBI, a run scored and two stolen bases. The beefy junior quipped the stolen bases were his favorite stat of the day.
“I'm going with the two stolen bases,” Kanallakan said. “I'm not really a running guy, but when I can I like to do it if I get a good read.”
Kanallakan even stole third in the sixth, en route to plating the final run of the day for AHS. He doubled, stole third and scored on a wild pitch with two outs to manufacture his own run.
“I saw the catcher keep dropping down to his knee and then the pitcher threw one in the dirt, so I just went for it,” Kanallakan said.
Four errors in the field and a couple mental miscues plagued the Warriors in the loss. First-year head coach Scott Smallie admitted that's been an issue thus far on the season.
“That's been the story of our season unfortunately,” Smallie said. “We make a couple errors and they end up getting to second base and they end up getting that big hit. The errors did cost us and we got our heads down a little bit and they start rallying a little bit and score some runs, we come back and take the lead and then they hit a couple in the gap and the same thing. Give all the credit to them. They are a good team and they've got the record they've got for a reason.”
Alton struck early, taking advantage of a couple two-out errors in the second to nab a 1-0 edge. Drake Hampton reached on an error and moved to third on a pair of wild pitches before scoring on another error.
In the third the Redbirds scratched across another run, this time on a GCHS mental error. Bryan Hudson hit a flare to center and took second and third when no one was covering the bags for the Warriors.
“Both our shortstop and second baseman go chasing after the ball because they think they can catch it,” Smallie said. “Then we don't cover second and our third baseman has to go cover second. (Hudson) makes a head's up play, he makes it all the way to third on that play and then he scored. That's the little things right there. If we keep him at first base, the next guy (Kanallakan) comes up and gets a base hit to left field, we have first and second. Instead he makes the head's up play and we don't pay attention and cover the bases.”
But the Warriors didn't go away quietly. They answered in the top of the fourth, actually grabbing a 3-2 lead.
Bruce Drennan led off with an infield single, Ryan Steen walked, David Pulley got a RBI single to right and Gabe Jarman cracked a two-run double. Alton starter Nick Cauley had no-hit GCHS through the first three innings.
“We talked to the kids before the inning and said, 'Hey, change your approach, he's throwing fastballs and he's not getting anything else over right now,'” Smallie said. “Gabe Jarman comes up with a big hit and that's one thing we've been lacking the last few games is that big hit that scores a couple runs and we got it and take the lead.”
Jarman's hit ended Cauley's afternoon, but made way for Jacob St. Peters. St. Peters came in and squashed Granite City's rally. He ended up going three innings, logging two strikeouts and hitting a batter, while surrendering no hits or runs to pick up the win.
“St. Peters did a phenomenal job,” Haug said. “That's the best he's looked all year. Sometimes it's hard when you're a pitcher only and you're hanging out in the bullpen and waiting for the opportunity. He said his arm felt good and he went out there and delivered.”
GCHS' lead turned out to be short lived.
Drake Hampton led off the bottom of the fourth with a triple and was singled home on a one-out hit by Derrick Allen to tie it at 3-3. An outfield error allowed Allen to advance to third and an infield error on Steven Nguyen's grounder allowed Allen to score and propel the Birds ahead 4-3.
Alton tacked on a run in the fifth after a leadoff double by Steven Pattan and a one-out RBI base knock by Noah Rathgeb. Kanallakan's manufactured run in the sixth then brought the tally to 6-3 and added insurance.
Hampton picked up the save, entering in the seventh to strike out the side.
Kanallakan said Thursday was all about the Redbirds gaining confidence in themselves at the plate. He thinks they are doing that, allowing the hitting to close the gap on the hype of Alton's pitching staff.
“I feel like we have to have confidence at the plate,” Kanallakan said. “We just need to not worry about it and just go up and hit, see the ball and hit it.
“It's the start of a good week, but we've got three more to go. Highland's a good ball club and then we've got two on Saturday (against Southwestern). It's a big week.”
The Birds hit the road with a 4:15 p.m. game at Highland on Friday and then welcome Southwestern to Moore Park at 10 a.m. on Saturday for a double header.
The Warriors head back to Babe Champion Field for a 4:30 p.m. showdown with Civic Memorial on Friday.
ALTON 6, GRANITE CITY 3
Granite City 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 — 3 3 4
Alton 0 1 1 2 1 1 X — 6 11 0
ALTON (14-3, 5-1) — Derrick Allen 1-3 RBI, Bryan Hudson 2-4, Jacob Kanallakan 4-4 2B RBI 2 SBs, Steven Pattan 1-3 2B BB, Aaron Bonnell 0-2 SAC, Noah Rathgeb 1-3 RBI, Drake Hampton 2-3 3B, Jacob Skrabacz 0-2 BB.
WP — Jacob St. Peters 3.0IP 0H 0R 0ER 0BB 2K 1HBP
SV — Hampton 1.0IP 0H 0R 0ER 0BB 3K
Nick Cauley 3.0IP 3H 3R 3ER 1BB 3K 1HBP
GRANITE CITY (6-13, 1-6) — Bruce Drennan 1-3, Ryan Steen 0-2 BB, David Pulley 1-3 RBI, Gabe Jarman 1-3 2B 2 RBIs, B.J. Niesporek 0-1 HBP, Sam Dean 0-1 HBP SAC.
LP — Sam Watson 4.1IP 10H 5R 3ER 2BB 4K
Collin Barrett 1.2IP 1H 1R 1ER 0BB 3K