Photo by Bill Roseberry
Standing are the senior members of the 2015 Alton Redbird baseball team, (front, from left) Carter Hayden, Jacob Skrabacz, Brendan Phillips and Drake Hampton; (back, from left) Ben Cusac, Bryan Hudson, Carlos Anderson and Matt Hopkins.
The key to success in high school baseball starts with pitching. That means the Alton Redbirds are primed for the 2015 season.
Alton possesses five pitchers clocked above 85 mph on their fastballs and hopes that’s the perfect foundation to build around.
The Birds were 22-15 a year ago and suffered a tough 1-0 loss at the hands of the Edwardsville Tigers in the Class 4A Alton Regional finals. That was one of four one-run losses for AHS in 2014, all charged to outstanding lefty hurler Bryan Hudson.
Alton head coach Todd Haug sees his squad making the turn this year and transforming those losses into wins.
“I love the makeup of the team, the continuity, the selflessness,” Haug said. “They are outstanding young men who put the team first. We are very gifted and very deep. As always, you have to produce on the field, but I like our chances with the amount of talent we bring to the table.”
It starts with Hudson, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound southpaw who has already signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Missouri, but could be selected early in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft in June. Hudson was 9-5 with a 1.28 ERA last season with 114 strikeouts and 43 walks in 76.2 innings pitched. He also led the team with five home runs.
“We have eight pitchers and all of them are capable of pitching beyond the high school level,” Haug said. “The staff is anchored by our senior ace Bryan Hudson. Last year he was first-team all-state. Hudson’s velocity has improved since last year. He is pitching in the low to mid-90s with arguably the greatest curveball the area has ever seen.”
Junior righty Nick Cauley (6-1, 185) was clocked at 92 mph and is garnering major Division I interest, according to Haug.
Senior Carter Hayden (5-10, 165) transferred from Marquette Catholic, where he was 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA a year ago. Hayden is getting D-I attention and has hit 88 mph on the gun.
Seniors Ben Cusac (6-4, 200) and Matt Hopkins (6-2, 215) round out the starters, while Jacob St. Peters (6-3, 175), Sam Ballard (5-11, 170) and Drake Hampton (6-0, 180) will come out of the bullpen.
Altogether there are 13 returners for the Birds from last year.
In the field, sophomore Steven Nguyen slides from second to shortstop after an all-conference freshman season. He slots in as the leadoff hitter. Hampton bats second and play right field, Hopkins hits third and will play left, junior catcher Aaron Bonnell hits cleanup, Hudson is fifth, junior first baseman Jacob Kanallakan hits sixth, Hayden will hit seventh and play third, junior center fielder Noah Rathgeb hits eighth and senior second baseman Jacob Skrabacz hits ninth. Hopkins, Bonnell and Hudson joined Nguyen as all-conference players last year.
Sophomore Steven Pattan will compete for time at third, second and catcher, senior Brendan Phillips vies for time in center and at second, as well as junior Derrick Allen. Senior Carlos Anderson and junior Matt Bower look for time in the outfield.
“From an offensive standpoint, we look to Nguyen, Hampton, Hopkins, Bonnell and Hudson to be our core,” Haug said. “They are tremendously strong and are capable of driving the ball out of the ballpark.”
Haug hopes to build on a 5-9 mark in the Southwestern Conference last season with a more mature squad in ‘15. O’Fallon and Edwardsville look to be forces again, while Belleville East, Belleville West, Granite City and Collinsville should all be good, too.
“I like my guys,” Haug said. “I know every coach is going to say that, but good pitching does beat good hitting — and not just Bryan — there are five guys and they are significant. I like all five of our guys against anybody in the conference or in southern Illinois, for that matter. That’s not knocking our offense, our pitching is just that loaded.”
Alton opens the season with a double header vs. Murphysboro at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Lloyd Hopkins Field.
A 6-8 senior lefty pitcher/outfielder, Hudson has already signed with Mizzou and is garnering interest for the upcoming Amateur Baseball Draft. He posted a team-best 1.28 ERA and hit a team-best five homers last year.
Hopkins is a 6-2 senior outfielder/pitcher for the Redbirds. Last season he batted .355 with one homer, 20 RBIs and 13 stolen bases, while going 3-3 on the mound with a 2.28 ERA.
Head coach: Todd Haug
Record last season: 22-15
Career record: 127-80 (six years)
Drake Hampton RF, P
Matt Hopkins LF, P
Bryan Hudson P, OF
Carter Hayden 3B, P
Jacob Skrabacz 2B
Brendan Phillips CF, 2B
Carlos Anderson OF
Ben Cusac P
Aaron Bonnell C
Jacob Kanallakan 1B
Noah Rathgeb CF
Derrick Allen CF, 2B
Matt Bower OF
Nick Cauley P
Jacob St. Peters P
Sam Ballard P
Steve Nguyen SS
Steve Pattan 3B, 2B, C
March 21 — vs. Murphysboro (DH), 1:30 p.m.
March 23 — vs. Jersey, 7 p.m.
March 25 — vs. Cahokia, 4:30 p.m.
March 28 — vs. CM (DH), 11 a.m.
March 31 — at Belleville East*, 4:30 p.m.
April 1 — vs. Wheaton Warrenville South, 4:15 p.m.
April 2 — vs. Edwardsville*, 4:30 p.m.
April 6 — at Freeport, 3 p.m.
April 7 — vs. Granite City*, 4:30 p.m.
April 8 — vs. Waterloo, 4:30 p.m.
April 9 — at Collinsville*, 4:30 p.m.
April 13 — vs. Carlyle (GCS), 4 p.m.
April 14 — vs. Belleville West*, 4:30 p.m.
April 16 — at East St. Louis*, 4:30 p.m.
April 18 — at Saint Louis University High (McCluer North), 11:30 a.m.
April 18 — at McCluer North, 2 p.m.
April 21 — O’Fallon*, 4:30 p.m.
April 24 — at Highland, 4:15 p.m.
April 25 — vs. Southwestern (DH), 10 a.m.
April 28 — at Edwardsville*, 4:30 p.m.
April 30 — vs. Belleville East*, 4:30 p.m.
May 2 — at Lindbergh (DH), 11 a.m.
May 4 — at Gibault, 4:30 p.m.
May 5 — vs. Collinsville*, 4:30 p.m.
May 7 — at Granite City*, 4:30 p.m.
May 12 — vs. East St. Louis*, 4:30 p.m.
May 14 — at Belleville West*, 4:30 p.m.
May 17 — at Mascoutah (Busch Stadium), 10 a.m.
May 18 — vs. Triad, 7 p.m.
May 19 — at O’Fallon*, 4:30 p.m.
May 20 — at Jersey, 4:30 p.m.