ALTON — It's no secret that pitching is key when it comes to the Alton Redbirds' baseball program this season.
The Civic Memorial Eagles learned that first hand on Saturday at Gordon Moore Park. The Redbirds swept the Eagles 10-0 and 5-0, getting a no-hitter from 6-foot-8 phenom Bryan Hudson in Game 1 and had five pitchers combine for the shutout in Game 2. Altogether the AHS pitchers struck out 29 CM hitters and walked just one in the two games.
Alton improved to 6-0 on the season with the pair of wins, while CM slipped to 0-4 after the two losses on Saturday.
“We just had too much Hudson,” Eagles' head coach Gary Bruening quipped. “I didn't know what else to say.”
Hudson wowed the crowd and — what is becoming the norm — the scouts on hand, as he carved up CM in Game 1.
Hudson allowed no hits in six innings of work on the mound while striking out 14 and walking one. At the plate he walloped a pair of homers to boot, a solo shot and a monstrous three-run bomb.
Overall on the season, Hudson improved to 3-0 on the hill. He's surrendered three hits, while fanning 29 and walking three in 12 innings thus far on the season. At the plate, he is hitting .615 with three homers and 12 RBIs so far.
Alton head coach Todd Haug thought Hudson's Game 1 performance was one of the better efforts he'd seen at the prep level.
“It could be arguably the best high school game statistically I've ever seen,” Haug said. “The kid threw a no-hitter and then he had 14 strikeouts and on top of it hit two bombs. It was a heck of an effort on his part and don't side step the fact that there were quite a few important people in the stands and the pressure that goes along with it and he handled it just fine.”
The humble and quiet Hudson said he just tried his best.
“It was a little chilly, but I just tried doing my thing out there,” Hudson said. “I hit the ball, threw well, I couldn't ask for much more.”
Steven Nguyen, Derrick Allen and Brendan Phillips joined Hudson with two hits apiece in Game 1, while Nguyen matched him with four RBIs.
Alton took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third of Game 1 when Hudson whacked his three-run homer, scoring Drake Hampton and Matt Hopkins.
AHS tacked on two more in the bottom of the fourth, two in the fifth and three more in the sixth to close it out. Hudson's solo homer led off the sixth.
Game 2 didn't start quite the way Haug would have liked. Starting pitcher Carter Hayden left with some soreness after just five pitches, but Haug isn't too concerned of its seriousness.
“He got a little tender in the elbow and it's a cold day in March and at this point there is no need to push it,” Haug said of Hayden, a transfer from Marquette Catholic. “At this point we've got plenty of arms, so we shut him down and we'll get him evaluated and go from there.”
Jacob St. Peters came on to relieve Hayden, followed by Nick Cauley, Sam Ballard and Ben Cusac to combine for the shutout. Together they fanned 15 Eagles in the win.
“I have a lot of confidence in the rest of my staff,” Cauley said, who threw three innings, fanning seven and walking none to earn the win. “I think anyone can come out and do a real nice job for us.”
Hudson agreed, raving about his pitching cohorts.
“I know I get a lot of attention, but those guys definitely deserve more credit and you've got my catcher back there (Aaron Bonnell) who caught all the innings today and the people that pitched that second game did an unbelievable job,” Hudson said. “I couldn't ask for a better team. They back me up when I need it.”
But on the other side, CM's starter in Game 2, Zac Cato was dealing to start the game, too. Cato didn't allow a hit until the third inning. All-in-all, he went four innings, scattering four hits, allowing four runs and fanning four while walking three.
“In the second game I thought Cato threw the ball well,” Bruening said. “That was a positive and our sophomore (Brandon) Hampton gave us two good innings and we've got to see that.”
Alton's offense got going in the third in Game 2. Phillips singled up the middle to start the inning and Allen put down a flawless sac bunt to move him to second.
After Jacob Skrabacz fanned, Nguyen started a two-out rally by coaxing a walk and stealing second. Hampton then swatted a two-run single to center to put AHS up 2-0.
Hopkins singled home Hampton and after Hudson was given an intentional pass, Jacob Kanallakan drove in Hopkins with a base knock to make it 4-0.
Alton's other run came in the fifth. Hampton hit a one-out double down the left field line and Hudson doubled to left center to plate him and make it 5-0.
Chaz Johannigmeier had two hits to pace the Eagles in the Game 2 loss, while Brandon Hampton, Caleb Buhs and Connor Bryant all picked up a hit for CM.
Bruening hasn't done his squad any favors, beginning the season with Edwardsvlle and Alton in three of their first four games, but he knows it's all about improvement for the end of the season and that's why he stacks the schedule.
“We just talked about that and we said, 'Guys we schedule this because we want to be better at the end of the year,'” Bruening said. “And we will be better. You don't like getting your brains kicked in right now, but it will make us better in the long run.”
CM is at Southwestern at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday in a makeup game.
The unbeaten Redbirds now prepare for a big week, with the Southwestern Conference schedule starting on Tuesday at Belleville East. Alton then welcomes Wheaton Warrensville South at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday in non-conference play and Edwardsville at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in SWC action.
“For us there is no big week, there is no small week, it's just baseball season,” Haug said. “There are only 11 or 12 weeks total in the season and it goes fast so make the most of each opportunity and in this case we had a good week from Saturday to Saturday and we'll take that momentum into next week.”