GODFREY — Jacob Kanallakan etched his name into Alton baseball lore forever on Tuesday.
Kanallakan christened the new AHS field by launching a 3-1 Collinsville pitch over the center field fence in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving the Redbirds a walk-off 2-1 victory. The Birds couldn't have imagined a better way to begin the era of their new picturesque diamond.
Alton improved to 11-4 and 4-1 in the Southwestern Conference with the win. The Kahoks slipped to 9-8 and 2-3 with the tough luck loss.
“I wasn't trying for a home run, I know that,” Kanallakan said smiling. “I was just trying to get something started because we only needed one run. Me getting on was important. If I got on we'd get a pinch runner and get a guy going and maybe get a run. I wasn't thinking home run, but then I got 3-1 so I knew I was going to get a good pitch to hit and I just put a good swing on it.”
Hitting it out to center, the deepest part of the park, was surprising to AHS pitcher Jacob St. Peters. St. Peters went the distance on the hill to earn the win.
St. Peters had just surrendered the first home run in the field's history to Collinsville's Brayden Arnold in the top of the seventh to tie it 1-1. Arnold smacked a ball over the left field fence and left St. Peters fuming.
“I let up a home run in what we thought would be a non-home run hitting baseball park and I just got really mad about it,” St. Peters said. “They just started chirping, but I just stayed in with myself, throwing strikes and pitching to contact.”
Then Kanallakan offered redemption.
“We just started jumping and going crazy once we saw it sail over center,” St. Peters said. “It was just crushed. I don't know what to say about it still.”
Alton head coach Todd Haug was all smiles thinking about the storybook ending to the game.
“It's such a rush of emotion,” Haug said. “Some very dramatic events took place there. For a game to kind of move very quickly it got kind of dramatic there at the end, but I can't imagine a better way. I'm very happy for these boys. We take care of the field enough. It's nice to get to play on it.”
The pitchers' duel lasted just 1 hour and 33 minutes and what was squandered was a great performance by Kahok starter Parker Marchbanks.
While St. Peters fanned six, walked one, hit a batter and scattered just three hits on 87 pitches, Marchbanks also went the distance, striking out four, walking one and just surrendering five hits on 77 pitches.
It's been the hard luck way of Collinsville so far in the SWC, which has lost its three league games by a total of six runs.
“It was a good high school baseball game,” Collinsville coach Pete Trapp said. “You’ve got to give (Alton) credit. They did a little bit more than we did to win the game.
“You know what though, that’s just part of baseball. At the same time, those three losses have all come on the road, so hopefully we’ll have a little more luck at our own place.”
The Redbirds cracked a scoreless stalemate in the third. Steven Pattan led off with an infield single, moved to second when Mikey Hampton was hit by a pitch and to third on a passed ball. He scored on what was credited as a sacrifice fly by Robbie Taul, but the relay throw from right field went toward second base.
“It was probably a mistake on their half not tagging up right away,” Trapp said. “And it was a mistake on our half not throwing to the right guy. Next thing you know, they’re up 1-0. It hurts, but it’s part of the game. We have to be a little better with that.”
Haug was just happy to pull out the win over a formidable opponent in Collinsville.
“Credit to Pete (Trapp) and his group, that's a very good ball club over there,” Haug said. “Their record is not indicative of how good a ball club they are. We feel very comfortable and very proud of our victory today because it was against a worthy opponent.”
As for Kanallakan being the hero and forever becoming the answer to an Alton baseball trivia question, he just grinned.
“It was exciting,” he said.
Next up for the Redbirds is a game at Belleville West at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The Kahoks now welcome Granite City at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Arthur Fletcher Field.
ALTON 2, COLLINSVILLE 1
Kahoks 000 000 1 — 1 3 0
Redbirds 001 000 1 — 2 5 0
Alton (11-4, 4-1) — Mikey Hampton 0-2 HBP SB, Noah Rathgeb 1-3, Robbie Taul 0-2 SAC RBI, Aaron Bonnell 1-2 BB, Sam Ballard 1-3 2B, Jacob Kanallakan 1-2 HR SAC RBI, Steven Pattan 2-2.
WP — Jacob St. Peters 7.0IP 3H 1R 1ER 2BB 6K 1HBP
Collinsville (9-8, 2-3) — Jordan Reichert 1-3, Brandon Harris 0-2 SAC, Braydon Arnold 2-3 HR RBI, Clay Hartman 0-2 BB, Sam Vlasak 0-1 BB HBP.
LP — Parker Marchbanks 7.0IP 5H 2R 2ER 1BB 4K