GODFREY — The Alton Redbirds took care of business on Thursday, defeating the Quincy Blue Devils 3-1 in the Class 4A Alton Regional semifinals.
It was a good break-in playoff game for Alton at its first-year baseball field. The Birds improved to 23-12 and advanced to meet Southwestern Conference rival O'Fallon (31-5) at 4 p.m. Saturday in the regional title tilt.
“I think it was a flawless game on our part,” AHS head coach Todd Haug said. “We played as good of ball as we can play. We preach to them — especially this time of year — the keys to victory are somebody's got to make the big pitch, somebody's got to make the big play and somebody's got to get the big hit.”
The Redbirds played an errorless game in the field, got solid pitching from Jacob St. Peters and Devin Colley and the big hits came off the bats of Steven Pattan and Jacob Kanallakan.
Pattan whacked a two-run double in the fourth and Kanallakan stroked a RBI triple in the sixth for good measure.
Pattan's double in the fourth erased a 1-0 lead by the Blue Devils.
“I was just looking first pitch on that one and (Quincy starter Drake Green) gave it to me,” Pattan said. “He got it up and luckily I hit it and it went pretty far. It wasn't quite far enough, but I was just looking for a strike early in the count and he had been pounding the zone all day.”
Steve Nguyen got the party started in the fourth for AHS with a leadoff single. After he stole second, Aaron Bonnell coaxed a one-out walk to put two on. Kanallakan then hit a grounder that Quincy couldn't handle and loaded the bases. Pattan stepped to the plate and pounded a double deep into the left field corner, chasing home Nguyen and courtesy runner Matt McDonald to put the Redbirds up 2-1.
“A great at-bat against a very quality pitcher,” Haug said of Pattan.
Kanallakan tacked on the insurance run in the sixth. Freshman Rob Taul singled through the middle to start things and Kanallakan came up with one out and launched his triple deep into center field. It was his fourth triple of the season.
The Birds seemed to let out a collective sigh of relief with the added run.
“I was looking to drive the ball, the first pitch was a ball, then coach gave me the hit-and-run so all I know is I have to swing at it,” Kanallakan said. “He gave me something to swing at and I put a good swing on it.”
The senior first baseman admitted the hit-and-run call instills an aggressive mind set in a hitter, one that he welcomes with open arms.
“You know your job is to swing at it, so if he throws a good pitch you've got to get a good swing on it and it might go somewhere and that's what happened,” Kanallakan said.
The lone run for the Blue Devils came in the second. A one-out double by Derek Green was followed by a RBI single to right field by leadoff hitter Masen Melton to stake Quincy to a 1-0 edge.
The Green twins, juniors for the Blue Devils, combined for a solid day in spite of the loss. Left fielder Derek Green collected three of Quincy's five hits as a team and brother Drake Green threw 88 pitches, scattering seven hits, fanning four, walking one and hitting a batter.
It was a great warm-up game for powerhouse O'Fallon. The Panthers have defeated the Redbirds twice this season, 5-0 and 7-0. Southern Illinois Carbondale recruit Bradley Harrison has pitched both games vs. Alton. The talented senior is 11-0 with a 0.28 ERA on the season and will throw again on Saturday.
Haug knows it's a tough task for the Redbirds and he figures no one is expecting much from his team.
“We're in a very, very unique and dangerous position and the reason why I believe that is there's not a soul outside our circle of trust that's expecting us to win this ball game on Saturday,” Haug said. “(Harrison) is a heck of a pitcher, he's one of the best ball players in the state of Illinois, pitcher and hitter. We've played him 14 innings and we haven't got a runner to third base. Outside our circle of trust I'm not sure we're getting a lot of notoriety on our chances, but our unique position is no one is really expecting this and we have just enough talent to do it and that's a recipe for being very scary in the playoffs. We've got no pressure and we've got the talent to do it.”
According to Pattan and Kanallakan, if there is one thing the Birds have learned about Harrison it's that he's going to throw strikes, so they think being aggressive is the name of the game.
“He pounds the zone early in the count and knows how to use all of his pitches. He's a really good pitcher,” Pattan said.
Kanallakan added of Harrison, “I think we've got to swing early in the count because before you know it it's 0-2 on you. He pounds the zone so well and he can put the pitch right where he wants, so we've got to swing early and hopefully get on base and move runners over.
“He's got a good fastball. I think it's pretty straight, but if you get down 0-1, 0-2, his hook is going to get you. You're not going to hit that, it's his best pitch.
“It's going to be tough game, a close game for whoever comes out on top, but I think it will be us if we play our game the way we're supposed to play it.”
CLASS 4A ALTON REGIONAL
ALTON 3, QUINCY 1
Blue Devils 010 000 0 — 1 5 1
Redbirds 000 201 X — 3 7 0
Alton — Noah Rathgeb 1-3, Steven Nguyen 2-3, Rob Taul 1-3, Jacob Kanallakan 1-3 3B RBI, Steven Pattan 1-3 2B 2 RBIs, Derrick Allen 1-3.
WP — Jacob St. Peters 4.0IP 3H 1R 1ER 1BB 6K
SV — Devin Colley 3.0IP 2H 0R 0ER 1BB 2K
Quincy — Masen Melton 1-3 BB RBI, Johnny Reckers 1-3, Ben Schroeder 1-3 2B, Derek Green 3-3 2B.
LP — Drake Green 6.0IP 7H 3R 2ER 1BB 4K 1HBP