ALTON – Bryan Hudson of the Alton Redbirds had a new follower Tuesday at Moore Park.
And it had nothing to do with social media such as Facebook or Twitter.
Chicago Cubs’ president Theo Epstein watched Hudson shut down Collinsville, 5-1, in a Southwestern Conference baseball game. The surging Redbirds, winners of six in succession and 11 of 12, improved to 23-4 overall and 8-2 in the SWC. Collinsville, bowing to Alton and Hudson for the second time this season, fell to 11-12 and 2-7.
“I didn’t know he was here,” Hudson said of Epstein, who journeyed to Hopkins Field for a first-hand look at the 6-foot-8 senior. The Cubs are playing the St. Louis Cardinals this week at Busch Stadium, so it was a short trip for Epstein to view a possible draft pick.
He saw Hudson at his best. The left-hander allowed three hits and an unearned run while striking out 15 on 96 pitches, 68 of them strikes. Scouts from multiple MLB teams tracked his every move.
“I felt like I was throwing the ball well and the team did it for me,” Hudson said of the Redbirds’ 12-hit attack. “I was mixing my pitches, with fastballs, curves and change-ups. I always try to do that."
Catcher Aaron Bonnell, who was 3-for-3, said Hudson had everything working his way. He blanked the Kahoks on one hit until the seventh.
“When you are catching Bryan, you don’t have to do too much,” Bonnell said. “His curveball was right there, he had good velocity and he put the ball right where you want it.”
Hudson lifted his record to 8-1 and lowered his ERA to 0.43. He has recorded a single-season school record 116 strikeouts in 49.2 innings. Hudson pitched six shutout innings earlier this season as the Redbirds won at Collinsville, 6-2.
“Any time Bryan is on the mound, there’s a tremendous amount of confidence he brings to our team,” AHS coach Todd Haug said. “I think Bryan’s most unique quality is the way he continues to go about his business. He doesn’t get distracted.
“The sky’s the limit for him.”
Collinsville coach Pete Trapp certainly has seen enough of Hudson. “That’s the fourth time we have faced him in two years,” Trapp said. “He’s a very good pitcher and he does what he’s supposed to do. We just have to do some things better.”
Cody Oberkfell’s RBI single in the seventh accounted for Collinsville’s lone run. Mitch Reising of the Kahoks singled to open the game and then Hudson retired 15 in succession, including a dozen on strikeouts.
"He was definitely throwing his off-speed pitches for strikes and his curve had a great break to it," Trapp said. "Hudson's so tall and that helps him a lot because he throws over the top more than most left-handers."
Bonnell and Steve Nguyen sparked the Alton attack. Nguyen also contributed three singles, including a run-scoring one in the seventh. Drake Hampton added two singles, while Jacob Skrabacz belted a run-scoring triple in a three-run third. Derrick Allen drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Hudson chipped in with a bunt single.
“We’re all backing each other and swinging the bat well,” Bonnell said. “I know that I’ve been seeing the ball really well. A key for me is swinging early in the count.”
Haug said, “We have been getting quality swings up and down the lineup. Bonnell had another good game and he is a team MVP candidate. Aaron is a protégé of Nick Paulda and Nick taught him how to conduct business behind the plate.”
Hudson said the junior catcher is a reason for his success. “Aaron has been phenomenal,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better catcher.”
The Redbirds couldn’t ask for better performances than the ones they have produced lately, Hudson said.
“We’re all on the same page now and things are working out for us,” he said. “I think we will be on fire in the postseason.”
ALTON 5, COLLINSVILLE 1
Collinsville 000 000 1 – 1 3 2
Alton 030 002 X – 5 12 1
Collinsville (11-12, 2-7) – Reising 1-3, Eddington 1-3, Oberkfell 1-3 RBI. LP – Anson IP-6 H-12 R-5 ER-3 BB-1 K-2
Alton (22-4, 8-2) – Allen 0-2 RBI, Nguyen 3-4 RBI, Hudson 1-4, Kanallakan 1-3, Bonnell 3-3, Hopkins 1-3, Hampton 2-3, Skrabacz 1-2 3B RBI. WP – Hudson IP-7 H-3 R-1 ER-0 BB-1 K-15