After surrendering just three hits and no runs in his first 12 innings this season, Alton High senior ace Bryan Hudson was roughed up for four runs in one inning Thursday by the Edwardsville Tigers.
The Tigers parlayed that four-run third inning and the quality pitching of Daniel Lloyd and Jake Garella into a 6-1 Southwestern Conference baseball victory over the Alton Redbirds.
An RBI triple in the third by Jordan Hovey ignited the Edwardsville uprising as the Tigers, ranked first in the News-Democrat Large-School Poll, improved to 7-0 by knocking off third-ranked Alton. They strung together four straight hits against Hudson, also getting an RBI double from Matthew Zielonko and singles by Collin Clayton and Aaron Jackson with other runs scoring on a balk and an Alton error.
“I happened to get a pitch I could handle and put a good swing on it,” said Hovey, who admitted not putting up much of anything previously against the Missouri recruit and potential high draft pick. “Not me, I know I had a three-K game against him (before) so I’ve been trying to figure out his number. He throws hard ... he’s always been an elite guy, I would say.”
The high number of major league scouts in the seats behind home plate at Lloyd Hopkins Field suggested Hudson is still a hot commodity, but no Alton observers could recall him giving up four runs in an inning before.
“I’m not going to make excuses for anybody, but I’ve never seen that before,” Alton coach Todd Haug said after his team dropped its second straight game following a 6-0 start. “I’ve really never seen that before. I’ve never had to go get him ... so we were in a little bit of uncharted territory.
“Fundamentally his mechanics were a little bit fouled up, his curveball was a little flat. Quite honestly there was some goofy stuff going on that I think got into everybody’s head a little bit, we got a little distracted and off course. All in all he battled back, he had a good ending to his start today. We wish we could have had a better result in that third inning.”
The pesky Edwardsville hitters made sure that did not happen.
“Our guys just try to battle in there,” Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said. “Obviously he’s a dominant-style pitcher and we just tried to compete. We put a couple swings on some pitches he left over the plate and Hovey getting that triple was a big jump-start.
“We wish we could have added more in the fifth, but we were pretty fortunate to get the big-run inning in the third there. He makes is tough on our hitters, his curveball’s exceptional and his fastball is getting on top of you. He’s a great competitor on top of that.”
Hudson (3-1) struck out seven and allowed just one hit — a leadoff single by Hovey in the fifth — outside the decisive third inning.
“It’s tough to square up a ball (against him) so you take the runs when you can get them,” Funkhouser said.
Hudson crushed a solo homer to right leading off the sixth inning, his fourth in eight games.
It was the only run allowed by the Tigers as starter Daniel Lloyd (3-0) struck out eight in four scoreless innings before leaving after being hit in the back of his leg by a line drive off the bat of Hudson. Jake Garella finished up, allowing one hit —the Hudson homer — over the final three innings as he and Lloyd combined for 13 strikeouts.
“Today (Lloyd) settled in a little better,” Funkhouser said. “The last couple outings he’s had he’s been a little up and just kind of anxious. He had a little better touch and feel today.”
Lloyd wasn’t blowing hitters away, instead changing speeds and pinpointing his location.
“He’s a classic Edwardsville pitcher,” Haug said. “He’s not overpowering but I tell you what, with change-up like he has it makes the fastball look that much better. A good change-up’s a money pitch in baseball and he’s got a good one.”
Edwardsville got two more runs in the seventh against reliever Ben Cusac. Clayton tripled and scored on a double by Jackson and Fahd Shakeel added an RBI single.
Hovey felt facing Hudson, who pitched extremely well against the Tigers last spring in a 1-0 regional championship loss, helped focus the Tigers a bit more.
“The team’s more concentrated I would say,” Hovey said. “You get fired up when you do good, but if you get too fired up you might deflate your play so we try to stay even all the time no matter who we’re playing.”
Counting the tied game suspended after nine inning Tuesday against Belleville East, Alton has struck out 38 times in its last three games.
“Two good teams, one team played a little bit better than the other tonight,” Haug said. “It’s early and that’s what we’ll take away from this. We would rather this happen now than the end of May.”
Edwardsville loses star catcher
Edwardsville senior catcher Brock Weimer, a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recruit and one of the area’s top players, will undergo knee surgery Friday after tearing his meniscus Monday against Moline.
“They’re going to look in (there) to see if a repair is needed or whether to take it out,” Funkhouser said. “I think for the most part the doctor will go in and make an assessment and go from there. We’ll be praying for him and have him in our thoughts tomorrow morning and see what comes out of it from there.”
The loss of Weimer, one of the top senior catchers in the state, won’t be an easy one. Weimer was hitting .462 with two doubles, one home run and nine RBIs in his first 13 at-bats before being sidelined. He was a first-team All-Area catcher as a junior when he hit .430 with 16 doubles, five homers and 33 RBIs.
Blade wins No. 600
Longtime Edwardsville softball coach Lori Blade won her 600th career game Thursday as the Tigers pounded Alton 10-0. The first 256 wins of Blade’s softball coaching career came at Carrollton, where she was 256-31 from 1992-2002. She has been the softball and girls basketball coach at Edwardsville since 2003.