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Tuscola's Cade Kresin (10) is striking out just one time in every 24 plate appearances for the Warriors (22-2). More photos at www.herald-review.com

TUSCOLA — Some of his friends think he's off of his rocker.

Even his grandfather, Brian Brace, sits at baseball games and harps on Cade Kresin to not fall behind in the counts so often — to avoid those dastardly two-strike predicaments that are rarely beneficial for a hitter. Surely no player likes being in those situations.

The truth is, Kresin loves those counts. He fawns over those mental battles with pitchers. Most of the time, he finds a way to put the ball in play and is hitting .525 with eight home runs, seven doubles and 42 RBIs for the Tuscola (22-2) baseball team.

The kicker, though, is that he has just four strikeouts in 96 plate appearances — or one time every 24 times up to the plate. He recently went 20 straight days, eight games and at least 31 plate appearances without experiencing the lonely walk back to the dugout after being rung up.

Kresin remembers each of the four punchouts. The first came in the season opener against Westville, the next came on April 6 against Effingham St. Anthony, then against St. Teresa on a pitch high in an expanded zone last week and finally against Shelbyville on Monday after a bad call.

The strikeouts gnaw at him, but don't detract from his confidence at the plate.

“I get to the batter’s box and I usually have a lot of confidence when I’m up there," Kresin said. "I look for a pitch I can smash right away. I don’t mind being in two-strike counts. I like to battle when I’m up to bat. I think that’s part of the fun in batting.

“Honestly, two-strike counts are kind of fun for me and I have a lot of hits in two-strike counts."

Last season, Kresin went between batting No. 5 and No. 6 for the Warriors en route to a third-place finish in Class 2A. Now, though, after the graduation of a talented senior class, he's the No. 2 hitter for the Warriors. He sees more curveballs and aggressive pitches, but that's fine by Kresin. He keeps with the same strategy and waits back for a pitch he can mash. One of his skills has always been to differentiate between a fastball and a curveball. Because of that, he's avoided any rough stretches this year and has a hit in every game the Warriors have played, and has at least four RBIs in four games.

"He’s comfortable and he’s not afraid to hit with two strikes," said first-year Tuscola coach Adam Carver. "He’s seeing the ball really well, and he hits the ball hard. He’s not taking any bad swings. He puts himself in good positions to get the job done for us."

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Kresin entered the season knowing he would be one of the "guys" in the meat of the order. Gone were Dalton Hoel, Andrew Erickson, Cale Sementi and Tyler Meinhold. Kresin knew it was his time to step into the spotlight.

He and Carver talked before the season about expectations and what Carver needed Kresin to be this year. 

“I was excited to get started with the season," Kresin said. "I was looking forward to my senior year. I’ve been playing baseball ever since I was a little kid. I looked forward to stepping into a role where I could really help my team."

There's also the matter of unfinished business from last year. The baseball team gets extra hitting in at a shed in town. Inside the shed are pictures commemorating seasons past. Front and center is a giant poster from last year's third-place finish.

It's equally as frustrating to see as it is to remember a great season.

“It was a great season in general. You can’t deny that," Kresin said. "I think it gives motivation for the next year to show that we’re good and we have the talent to do what we did and maybe even better."

As for Kresin, he came into the season thinking this was going to be it for his baseball career. He's signed up to be a kicker on the Augustana football team next season. But as the season has gone on, maybe he's not ready to put baseball away quite yet.

After all, his numbers show he can be a problem for opposing teams when he's at the plate.

“With the season and how it’s going right now, it kind of opened a new picture for me," he said.

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Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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