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Former teammates mourn Hancock

VESTAVIA HILLS (AP) — Former high school and college teammates are mourning the death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, who helped Vestavia Hills High School to three state championships in the 1990s and was a member of the Auburn team that went to the College World Series in 1997.

Hank Askins, a Vestavia Hills teammate and close friend, said he had talked to Hancock on Saturday afternoon. Hancock, 29, died when his sport-utility vehicle ran into a tow truck that was parked along a highway in St. Louis early Sunday.

"Josh was very upbeat Saturday," said Askins. "He had just had a new contract negotiated and he was really happy."

Samford University baseball coach Casey Dunn was a teammate of Hancock both at Vestavia Hills and Auburn.

"Josh was a great friend, a great teammate at Vestavia Hills and at Auburn," Dunn told The Birmingham News in a story Monday. "This is a shock. He flew (wife) Marti and me to St. Louis last season and we spent some time with him. We talked often. I was so proud of him."

At Vestavia Hills, Hancock went 28-1 as the school won three straight Class 6A state championships. He holds the Alabama High School Athletic Association record with 27 straight wins (1994-96). As a senior, he was 9-0 with an 0.92 ERA.

Hancock was an important part of the 1997 Auburn baseball team that advanced to the College World Series. Hancock went 2-0 with a 4.75 ERA in 13 appearances for the Tigers, striking out 32 in 30 1/3 innings.

"Josh was a part of arguably the best pitching staff and arguably the best team ever to play at Auburn," said current Tigers coach Tom Slater, who was an assistant on the team, which included Tim Hudson, now with the Atlanta Braves. "It is a shame when anyone dies, especially someone as young as Josh, in a tragic accident."

In 1995, Dunn caught for the Rebels as Hancock and Colter Bean each starred for Vestavia Hills.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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