Maybe Alton High baseball coach Todd Haug has been around Bryan Hudson too long to fully understand the talent that has been bringing major league baseball scouts to Redbirds games like bees to honey.
Haug said there have been at least 15 scouts or other major league scouting department personnel watching the 6-foot-8 senior left-hander pitch in each of his first three outings.
“He’s exceeding expectations,” said Haug, whose team entered Monday at 6-0 with Hudson providing three of those victories on the mound. “But he’s completely unfazed (by the attention).”
Hudson is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 12 innings following his six-inning no-hitter with 14 strikeouts Saturday in a 10-0 victory over Civic Memorial. The University of Missouri pitching recruit has also been a torrid hitter, compiling a .615 average (8-for-13) with three home runs and 12 RBIs.
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“It’s not that we’re surprised, but when you have top-talent kid sometimes it doesn’t hit you since you see him every day,” said Haug, whose team travels to Belleville East on Tuesday. “I’ve been around him every day since he was in sixth grade and to us he’s just Bryan. We’re starting to get scouting directors and executives already. It’s awe-inspiring when you know who’s in the stands. Of course we don’t tell him that.”
It’s hard to miss all those radar guns and gentlemen with sunglasses and spring training tans exchanging knowing glances and reports on prospects. Haug said Hudson’s fastball routinely is in the upper 80 mph range and has been as high as 93.
Asked about where he feels Hudson could be drafted, Haug said “If he continues to head in this direction, it’s definitely top five rounds. He has ultimate command of multiple pitches. He throws very hard, but Bryan has a quality curveball that’s his signature, obviously.
“He’s also an absolute offensive force. He gets overshadowed because he’s 6-foot-8 and left-handed and somebody is probably going to make him a pitcher-only in the near future. He received a tremendous scholarship from Mizzou. He’s set on being a Tiger and if professional baseball gives him the right opportunity, I think he’ll definitely give it consideration.”
Hudson is PrepBaseballReport.com’s fourth best overall prospect in Illinois and rated among the top two pitchers in the state with Lincoln-Way North’s Purdue recruit Kyle Ostrowski, also a lefty.
Ranked third in the News-Democrat Large-School Baseball poll, the 6-0 Redbirds had outscored the competition 61-4 before Monday. Their pitchers have four shutouts in the first six games led by Hudson, Nick Cauley (2-0, 1.00 ERA), Ben Cusac (1-0, 1.40 ERA), Carter Hayden and Sam Ballard.
“We’ve got the best pitching staff I’ve ever had,” said Haug, whose team was 22-15 last spring and entered the 2015 season ranked 16th in the state by PrepBaseballReport.com while Southwestern Conference rivals O’Fallon was fifth and Edwardsville was eighth. “Cauley’s throwing as high as 92 (mph) and he’s been lights out. He’s our No. 2 and in another situation he’d be a No. 1.”
The hitting has also been strong with sophomore second baseman Steve Nguyen at .529 in the leadoff spot with 10 hits,10 RBIs and six stolen bases. Jacob Kanallakan (.583, 11 RBIs) has also been swinging a hot bat along with Jacob Skrabacz (.400, five RBIs) and Air Force recruit Matt Hopkins (.294, five RBIs).
“It’s kind of a perfect storm in terms of the horses that we can run out there and the talent that we have,” Haug said. “But it’s a very loaded Southwestern Conference this year and ultimately it comes down to pitching and who can run solid guys out there not once, but twice a week.”
* The Collinsville Kahoks (5-0) and Edwardsville Tigers (3-0) are the other unbeaten team in the Southwestern Conference at 5-0. Included in that total are solid wins over Althoff and a doubleheader sweep of one of the area’s better small-school programs, Central.
Dylan McEwen (.615, 8-for-13, two doubles, six RBIs) and Aaron Ortiz (.583, 7-for-12, four RBIs) are atop the offensive leaderboard for the Kahoks through this hot early stretch. The Kahoks lost ace right-hander and Toronto Blue Jays 12th-round draft pick Tanner Houck to Missouri, but have been pitching well behind Justin Anson (2-0), Andrew Pashea and Matthew Cook.
Senior outfielder Matt Zielonko (.625, 5-for-8, one homer, five RBIs) and senior catcher Brock Weimer (.500, seven RBIs) helped Edwardsville outscore its three opponents 43-2. Senior pitchers Daniel Lloyd (2-0) and Aaron Jackson picked up the mound wins.
* Ranked No. 1 among small-schools since the preseason has been the Wesclin Warriors and coach John Groennert’s club has not disappointed. Wesclin won five of its first six games with juniors Jared Timmermann (.588, three doubles, eight RBIs) and Jordan Groennert (.500, six RBIs) leading the way. The Warriors’ deep pitching staff already as three shutouts.
* Two of the top squads in the Mississippi Valley Conference figure to be Waterloo (4-0) and Highland (3-0). Waterloo’s Brett Degener is at .625 (5-for-8) with four RBIs and Cole Milam began Monday hitting .556.
Corey Vogel, the son of Waterloo coach Mark Vogel, struck out 10 in his five-inning season debut Saturday. Missouri State recruit Tyler McAlister, Noah Thaggard and Aaron Laskowski are also solid arms for the Bulldogs.
Grant Geppert (.444, three RBIs), Matt Augustin (.400) and Cody Bentlage (.375, four RBIs) have been offensive catalysts for Highland. Geppert should also be one of the team’s top pitchers.