Clutch hits help fuel Warriors

Clutch hits help fuel Warriors

TUSCOLA — The big inning was a significant reason Tuscola baseball compiled the sort of season it did in 2018.

What happened late in Tuesday's tilt with St. Joseph-Ogden suggests that isn't going to change despite plenty of graduation-fueled turnover for the Warriors.

Cade Kresin and Max Wyninger homered in a seven-run fifth inning at Ervin Park, breaking a 2-all tie and helping Tuscola to an 11-5 victory and a strong nonconference result.

"It all comes together when we're out here," said Kresin, who finished with four RBI and picked up the pitching win for the Warriors (5-0). "It's a fun time. I think that's what helps us, honestly: We keep our good energy the whole time."

That factor has carried over from Tuscola's third-place showing in Class 2A the previous year, even with head coach Duff Hoel and seven seniors no longer in the fold.

So too has the Warriors' penchant for coming up with clutch base knocks.

Versus the Spartans (3-2), it started with Kresin lacing a two-out, first-inning single off SJ-O starter Caleb Johnson.

Power hitter Brayden VonLanken followed with a longball to left field, tying the contest at 2 after Crayton Burnett and Adam Rose tagged Tuscola's Logan Tabeling for two early markers.

"In this ballpark, you can't give anything up in the air," SJ-O coach Josh Haley said. "It might be runs on the board."

Both Tabeling and Johnson settled in after their respective shaky starts.

The righty Tabeling fanned 10 Spartans in just four innings of work. The right-hander Johnson entered the fifth inning with only three hits against him thanks to a lower arm angle when firing toward home plate.

"The way (Johnson's) delivery was, the ball was moving quite a bit," first-year Tuscola boss Adam Carver said. "Kind of threw our guys off. We hadn't seen it yet. But it was definitely big to get to their bullpen."

Johnson was lifted with none out in the fifth after Haden Cothron's RBI single that resulted in a second run on an SJ-O error.

From there, Kresin and Wyninger both sized up two-run homers, and Kresin added a two-run single out of the No. 3 hole in the sixth inning.

"I've been talking to Coach about it in the offseason, and he was saying I might have to step up to this spot," said Kresin, who batted fifth for the squad in last season's state showcase. "So I was just getting ready for it all offseason."

"Sometimes I'll throw it pretty hard at these guys ... and he's the one taking the best cuts," Carver added. "He doesn't strike out a lot, which I need out of my 3 guy."

The Spartans scratched Kresin for three late tallies, including a two-run homer by Blake Dable, but SJ-O fell short for the second time in its last three outings.

"We've got a salty schedule, so we've got to be ready to play every day," Haley said. "We've got a 10-man pitching staff, and we're going to use them."

On the other side, Carver described the coaching transition from Hoel to himself as "seamless" thus far. The Warriors' outcomes are proving that accurate.

Even with a new look inside its dugout, Tuscola appears primed to give its foes just as much trouble as it did the campaign prior.

"I knew we were capable of it," Carver said. "Again (Tuesday) we got down early and kept battling the whole way through, and that's the main thing I like to see out of our guys."

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