ALTON — It might be hard to convince the Alton Redbirds that Nick Van Osdale did not even play baseball last season.
Headed to Division II Lindenwood, in St. Charles, Mo., on a basketball scholarship, the Belleville West senior All-Area guard still knows his way around the batter's box.
Van Osdale had a three-run homer and drove in five runs Thursday in the Maroons' 12-9 Southwestern Conference victory over Alton.
"I was a little slow early, on, but we have a great team out there and we've trained hard," said Van Osdale, whose two doubles gave him seven this season to go along with a .361 average and 11 RBIs in 12 games. "They help me out a lot and it's been a good transition. I guess I just put a good swing on the ball."
With Belleville West leading 2-1 on a two-run homer by sophomore Jacob Wilson, Van Osdale delivered a three-run blast beyond the left-field fence in the third inning.
"I'm not really known as a power hitter, but I was lucky enough to lift one out of here today," Van Osdale said.
The game matched the top two teams in the News-Democrat Class 3A-4A baseball rankings. Top-ranked Alton (8-2) dipped to 0-2 in the conference while No. 2 Belleville West (9-3) moved to 3-0 in the SWC.
West coach Lee Meyer wasn't happy with his team's hitting before Thursday, then watched the Maroons score 12 runs on 12 hits against the area's top-ranked team.
Aaron Meyer was 3-for-5 with an RBI, Wilson was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and Austin Bammer added two hits and a two-run single.
"We told them to just keep after it and keep working and if it warms up a little bit maybe our bats will warm up a little bit," Coach Meyer said. "Today they did. We had a better approach at the plate, I think we worked counts a lot better today and put some good swings on balls. We were fortunate to hit some balls hard."
West took a 12-5 lead into the seventh and Parker Beine, who had retired 10 straight hitters in relief with four strikeouts, was seemingly in command.
But the Redbirds pushed across four runs and had the bases loaded when Wilson came on in relief to strike out Matt Halliday for the final out.
"That's confidence going in on the mound there," Coach Meyer said of Wilson. "He came in with bases loaded and top of the order up. He contributed last year for us at the end of the season.
Alton took an early 1-0 lead on a solo homer in the first by Indiana recruit Brent Gibbs, a senior catcher being scouted as a potential draft pick by major league teams.
He's hitting .485 with two homers, seven doubles and 14 RBIs.
Wilson's two-run homer gave West the lead, but Alton's Nick Paulda belted a three-run shot off Maroons' starter Cory Renois to give the Redbirds a 5-4 advantage.
Working against Alton's top reliever Charlie Howard with two men on in the fifth, Van Osdale delivered a three-run homer.
A baseball starter as a sophomore, Van Osdale concentrated on basketball last spring and summer before deciding to join his baseball teammates again as a senior.
"Nick's an athlete, he should have come out last year," Coach Meyer said with a smile. "I've watched Nick play 12, 13 years and I knew he could play. He really hasn't missed a beat, he's come back strong and he's come back ready to go. He missed it last year and I think he came back ready to do something this year."
Beine (2-1) did not allow a baserunner until walking Halliday to start the seventh. Matt Hopkins got an RBI single and with the bases loaded, pinch-hitter Ray Bailey reached on an error to force in a run. After Beine hit Ron Wisnasky to force in another run, Wilson came on to record the final out and pick up a save.
Alton coach Todd Haug felt his team's five errors had as much to do with the final score as the West hitters.
"Look at the third number in our box score," Haug said. "It wasn't our pitching, OK? You're not going to beat anybody --and you're going to put yourself way behind -- when you commit five errors. You can look at any other aspect and hunt for excuses all you want, but five errors? Nine runs should win you a ballgame, except when you give up 12."