COLLINSVILLE – One big inning pointed the Alton High Redbirds in the right direction Friday afternoon at Fletcher Field. And Matt Hopkins did his part to guide it.
The left-handed hitting senior outfielder stroked a two-run single in a five-run third as the Redbirds defeated Collinsville, 6-2, in a Southwestern Conference game. Alton improved to 8-2-1 overall and 1-1-1 in the league. The Kahoks dropped to 7-3 and 1-2.
“Matt has been pressing a little bit at the plate,” AHS coach Todd Haug said of Hopkins, who was 2-for-4 and drove in three runs. “He has been hitting the ball hard, but a lot of times it was right at somebody. Today, the ball found the grass.
"He's one of our key guys and we want him to continue to do what he did today."
Hopkins said he found the perfect way to unwind and change his luck.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well and hitting it hard, but I’ve been pretty unlucky at the plate. So I sang my favorite song, ‘Sister Christian,’ in my head and it helped me relax,” Hopkins said of the Night Ranger tune.
The Redbirds were well-relaxed against the Kahoks, even though the Alton players and coaches had a scare on their way to Collinsville. Their bus broke down on I-255 and they had to deal with a minor fire.
“We were driving down Interstate 255 and couldn’t see out the back of the bus,” Haug said. “There was smoke coming out of it, so we had to pull over near Wood River. We had five fire trucks and four police cars around us.”
Haug added, “I’ve been on buses that have broken down going to a game, but never one that had a fire.”
They boarded another bus and avoided any more distractions. The game started 20 minutes late, though you would have never known it the way winning pitcher Bryan Hudson worked.
He struck out the first three hitters on nine pitchers. Overall, he hurled six innings, allowed three hits and struck out 13 in a 76-pitch performance. Hudson, now 4-1, lowered his ERA to 0.85, as eight big-league scouts took note of his efficiency.
“I was feeling it today,” said Hudson, who also contributed a run-scoring single in that explosive third inning. “I think it was a good start for me.”
He figures to get his next one when the Redbirds play host to SWC rival Belleville West at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Alton meets Carlyle at GCS Ballpark in Sauget at 4 p.m. Monday.
“Bryan has been battling a little bit of a hip flexor, but he said he felt pretty good today,” Haug said.
Kahoks’ coach Pete Trapp will vouch for that.
“Hudson is tough and he’s a very good pitcher,” Trapp said. “I can see a little bit of a comparison with him and Tanner Houck.”
Houck, a right-hander and the Kahoks’ ace last season, is now pitching in the University of Missouri rotation. The 6-foot-8 lefty Hudson has signed with the Tigers, too.
Jacob Kanallakan of the Redbirds supplied a RBI double in the third inning, while Brendan Phillips added a run-scoring single. Hopkins provided his second hit and third RBI with a single in the fifth. Catcher Aaron Bonnell was 1-for-1 and walked three times. Steven Nguyen went 1-for-4 and reached base three times.
The Kahoks solved AHS reliever Nick Cauley for two runs in the seventh. Mitch Reising of Collinsville delivered a run-scoring single and was 2-for-4 overall. Overall, the Redbirds made four errors behind Hudson and Cauley. The Kahoks committed two errors, including a dropped fly ball in the outfield during the Birds’ third.
“You can’t make mistakes against a good team, or they will come back to hurt you,” Trapp said.
Hudson figured the Redbirds were due to help themselves in the SWC. They had a suspended tie with Belleville East and a loss to Edwardsville.
“We really needed to win this game,” he said. “They (Kahoks) beat us by one run twice last year, so it’s nice to get a win at Fletcher Field.”
ALTON 6, COLLINSVILLE 2
Alton 005 010 0 – 6 8 4
Collinsville 000 000 2 – 2 6 2
Alton (8-2-1, 1-1-1) – Nguyen 1-4, Allen 1-4, Hudson 1-4 RBI, Kanallakan 1-4 2B RBI, Bonnell 1-1, Phillips 1-4 RBI, Hopkins 2-4 RBI-3. WP – Hudson IP-6 H-3 R-0 BB-0 K-13; Cauley IP-1 H-2 R-2 ER-2 BB-1 K-1
Collinsville (7-13, 1-2) – Reising 2-4 RBI, Hoffman 1-4, McEwen 1-4, Oberkfell 1-3, Young 1-3.LP – Marchbanks IP-2 H-7 R-5 ER-4, BB-1 K-1; Anson IP-5 H-1 R-1 ER-1 BB-2 K-2