A little bunt went a long way for the Alton High baseball team Thursday in the Redbirds' Class 4A Regional.
Clint Cress’ bunt single ignited a two-run third inning and propelled the Redbirds to a 3-1 victory over Quincy at Moore Park. Alton’s semifinal victory improved its record to 22-14 and closed Quincy’s season at 13-17.
The Redbirds take on 28-7 Edwardsville at 11 a.m. Saturday on Hopkins Field for the regional championship. The winner lands a date in next week’s Bloomington Sectional at Illinois Wesleyan University.
“I need to pitch my game and we need to hit and play defense,” the Redbirds’ Bryan Hudson said, looking ahead to Saturday. The 6-foot-7 junior left-hander will be on the mound for the Birds.
Hudson provided an RBI double in the sixth and retired the final five hitters to preserve the win for Drake Hampton, the second of three AHS pitchers.
Alton prevailed despite getting just three hits and making three errors. Yet there was no bigger hit than Cress’ bunt.
Trailing 1-0 in the third, the Redbirds had runners at first and second base with one out. Cress dropped a bunt down the third base line for a single and when the Blue Devils misplayed it, two Alton runners scored.
“It was the perfect chance to lay down a bunt. I saw it coming,” Cress said. “Coach (Todd Haug) put it on and it was in the right place at the right time.”
Haug said, “There are a variety of ways to win games and our biggest hit of the game went about 7 feet. We haven’t been knocking the cover off the ball, so we used the art of a bunt placement.”
Quincy nicked Alton starter Matt Hopkins for a run in the first inning, but he, Hampton and Hudson stifled the Blue Devils the rest of the way. Hudson doubled home Cress, who had walked, in the sixth.
“It was nice to get that third run and have some cushion going into the seventh inning,” said Hudson, who made 16 pitches. “The team did a good job behind me.”
Haug lauded all the Alton pitchers for thwarting Quincy in a snappy 1-hour, 32-minute game.
“All three guys were solid on the mound and our pitching plan went to perfection,” he said. “We went into the game planning to use three pitchers.”
Next up is Edwardsville, which finished second to O’Fallon in the Southwestern Conference. The Redbirds split their league games with the Tigers this season. Edwardsville walloped Pekin 8-0 on Wednesday to reach the regional final.
Warrensburg-Latham Sectional – Roxana closed its season at 16-16 as the Shells suffered a 3-0 loss to Williamsville in a Class 2A sectional.
The game was played at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield because wet weather made the field unplayable at Warrensburg-Latham.
Nick Newton of Williamsville smacked a two-run double in the second inning and the Bullets never looked back. They added an unearned run in the top of the seventh against Shells’ starter Nelson Martz.
The Shells stranded five runners over the first three innings, then didn’t get many more opportunities against Williamsville pitcher Tyler O’Shea. He retired the final 12 batters to preserve his shutout.
The Bullets advance to Saturday’s championship game at Pleasant Plains, which eliminated Gillespie, 2-0.
In Class 1A action at the Carlinville Sectional on the Blackburn College field, it was North Greene eliminating Lebanon, 5-2. The 23-9 Spartans play 16-17 New Athens at 1 p.m. Saturday for the sectional title.