Preseason Top 25 Team Countdown: No. 21 Alton
March 9, 2016
By Sean Duncan
Leading up to the start of the high school season, we will count down the Top 25 preseason teams every day as part of our comprehensive season coverage:
Preseason Rank: 21
2015 Record: 30-7
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Todd Haug
Playoff Run: Lost in Regional Final
2015 Final Rank: 16
Returning Starters: 6
Returning Pitchers: 3
Name, Position, Class (College Commitment)
Nick Cauley, RHP, 2016 (Northwestern)
Sam Ballard, LHP, 2016. (Illinois-Chicago)
Derrick Allen, CF, 2016
Aaron Bonnell, C, 2016
Jacob St. Peters, RHP, 2016
Jacob Kanallakan, 1B, 2016
Steven Nguyen, SS/3B, 2017
Steven Pattan, SS, 2017
Noah Rathgeb, OF, 2016
Seth Boschert, C, 2016, (Lindenwood-Belleville)
Braden Flanigan, 2B, 2017
Ryan Boyd, OF, 2017
RHP Nick Cauley. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Northwestern recruit will assume the role of staff ace from last year’s Player of the Year, Bryan Hudson, a third-round pick by the Chicago Cubs. A daunting task, perhaps, but Cauley has shutdown-type stuff. His fastball has registered as high as 91 mph, and regularly pitches in the upper-80s.
NEWCOMER TO WATCH
Gary Volz. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound sophomore right-hander has reportedly been running his fastball into the upper 80s this offseason.
KEY PLAYERS LOST
LHP Bryan Hudson (Chicago Cubs, 3rd round pick)
1B Matt Hopkins (Air Force)
The Redbirds lost a lot of stats with the graduation of 2015 PBR Player of the Year Bryan Hudson. A two-time All-State selection, Hudson left Alton as the all-time leader in career innings (198), career wins (25), single-season ERA (0.47), career ERA (1.23), single season strikeouts (152), and career strikeouts (323). He’s also tied for single-season wins with 10. The talented 6-foot-7 southpaw went 10-2 last season with a 0.47 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 70.1 innings pitched. Hudson also did damage at the plate, leading the Redbirds in batting average (.436), doubles (14), triples (six), home runs (four), and RBI (49). Hudson became the first Illinois prep off the board in the MLB Draft, when the Chicago Cubs selected him in the third round with the 82nd overall pick.
Losing a two-way talent like Hudson will certainly set back a program. But Alton coach Todd Haug has high hopes of having another stellar season, one that saw the Redbirds win 30 games and finish ranked No. 16 in the final Top 25 poll. Haug calls this year’s team the deepest he has ever had. He returns six starters, and a deep senior class. Alton features excellent team speed and balance up and down the lineup, though the loss of Hudson and Matt Hopkins’ power will need to be replaced. On the mound, the Redbirds should once again be solid. Cauley headlines a staff that returns three that logged quality innings last spring. LHP Sam Ballard, a UIC recruit, emerged in the offseason as one of the better left-handed prospects in the state. Senior RHP Jacob St. Peters also returns after a strong summer campaign. Look for hard-throwing sophomore RHP Gary Volz to make a significant impact this spring as well.
Don’t expect a steep falloff from Redbirds just because they lost Hudson. Alton will still be highly competitive, but in the Southwestern Conference, the Redbirds will likely be looking up at perennial powers O’Fallon and Edwardsville.