TUSCOLA -- With the outfield fence a shade over 300 feet, Tuscola coach Duff Hoel knows there are cheap home runs at his ballpark.
With the wind blowing out, there's a good chance for a few more.
But the three home runs the Warriors pumped out on Friday were either no doubters or right in the gap as Tuscola pounded Warrensburg-Latham for a 13-3 win.
"Got some balls up, took advantage," Tuscola coach Duff Hoel said. "I personally hate playing here, I don't like cheap home runs. But, I didn't see a single cheap one.
"I saw balls that were barrelled up, that were line drives. If we were playing at Warrensburg on a nice big field like that, they were gap shots that were doubles or triples. I'll take that every day. Here, they just happen to be home runs."
Tuscola's bats are heating up right along with the weather as the Warriors are averaging more than 10 runs a game in the last four. Dalton Hoel and Tyler Meinhold were particularly sharp at the plate, going 3-for-4.
Meinhold, Andrew Erickson and Cade Kresin all launched home runs for the Warriors.
"I started off really slow and it was kind of frustrating," said Meinhold, who finished off the game with a liner on a one-pitch at-bat. "Definitely, I feel like the warm weather helps -- and my swing, something was wrong with my stance. Ever since I fixed it, it's been better. It's been a great feeling."
Hoel's been battling his own issues after a separated shoulder from football slowed his offseason progress. The switch hitter moved to the right side of the plate on Thursday, and the results were immediate.
"I'm a natural righty my whole life, so righty does feel a little more natural than lefty does," Dalton Hoel said. "But I'm comfortable to get in the box and bat lefty anytime that I feel the need to. Right now, I'm giving righty a chance."
The younger Hoel didn't have any sticking points anywhere else in the field. He started the game with a great backhand stick before throwing off his back foot in time to nab the runner at first.
And in the bottom half of the first inning, he beat what looked like a perfect throw by Warrensburg's Logan Bledsaw to steal second.
Hoel's number-crunching was right on.
"Our coach does a really good job of getting times, pitcher-catcher times," he said. "We come out here preseason and get our times. We have a really good educated guess on what the times are and what we can make, who we can steal on."
Warrensburg had trouble getting anything going against Erickson and Cole Thomas on the mound. Bledsaw provided the lone hit, but it was a big one -- a three-run home run.
But the lineup full of juniors and several underclassmen were stopped from reaching second the rest of the day.
It's the latest big conference win from Tuscola, which is now a perfect 6-0 in conference. While the slow start has them 12-8 overall, the Warriors have been rolling through the CIC.
"I've been pretty pleased with our pitching," Duff Hoel said. "Our offense is just now starting to catch up and we're playing the way we want to play it."
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There's a new Garhett in center for the Cardinals.
Warrensburg freshman Garhett Allen was all over the field, starting with a stellar diving catch to his left in the first inning with the bases loaded. He nearly had another to his right the next inning, but it popped in and out of his glove.
Allen moved to the mound in the middle of the second. He gave up some runs, but that's to be expected against the best offense in the CIC. How he pitched was more important, and Allen didn't overthrow. He certainly was more of a pitcher than a thrower, and with inducing several ground balls was able to navigate through the rest of the game.
After two straight 28-win seasons, there's a high bar set for Tuscola.
Even though most of the lineup found starting time last season, this is still a young team and there are moments it shows. There was a hard hit ball that looked like it could have cleared the fence, but didn't -- the batter was jogging around the bases like it was gone.
Coach Hoel said that year of experience has been detrimental in a way -- he's looking for that something extra.
"I've actually seen it hurt, and I'll tell you why," he said. "Because last year, they were freshman that were scared to death of Nick Bates and they were not going to do anything to let Nick down. And now, they think they know everything and they don't.
"We've got to bring Nick's toughness to this team."
A carrot to chase
Even with a recent power surge, there's still a team across the park that has the edge in dingers.
"Yeah, they hit a lot of home runs," Meinhold said of Tuscola softball. "I feel like every other second I'm hearing horns honk and stuff like that because they've been hitting home runs."
The entire left side of Tuscola's defense knows the right way to suit up -- black and yellow high socks.
Cade Kresin, Cale Sementi, Andrew Erickson and Dalton Hoel all sport the high socks, and not coincidentally I'm sure, those four went 7 of 13 from the plate.