ATWATER — Mark delaMotte didn't mind opening the Central California Conference schedule with a two-game set against Buhach Colony.
Turlock's veteran baseball coach realizes that it's better to face a young team earlier in the season than later.
"In the past, I didn't like playing them right away when they had three Division I guys," said delaMotte, well aware that the Thunder has been a powerhouse for more than a decade.
This year's version, though, is still struggling to achieve consistency.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
"They're doing things the right way," said delaMotte, who has a talented, veteran team. "Their young guys are going to get good fast."
That experience definitely played a part when the teams opened the CCC schedule Wednesday.
Turlock (7-2) built an early four-run lead with two-out hitting, then put the Thunder away with a five-run seventh inning for a surprisingly easy 11-2 win over the defending champ.
"We didn't do a good job of executing on our two-strike pitches," said BC coach Wayne Fitzgerald, whose club started the day on an upswing after winning its previous two games. "Turlock did, and they capitalized on every one of them."
Kevin Kramer, Ryan Cumberland and Vince Wheeland hit consecutive two-doubles in the top of the first to give the CCC favorites a 2-0 lead.
Buhach freshman Daulton Jefferies helped his team even the score with a run-scoring double in the first and an RBI single in the third. The rest of the day, though, belonged to the Bulldogs and their batters.
Turlock jumped back in front when Ryan Brown hit a two-out, two-run double in the top of the fourth. Kramer slugged a solo homer in the fifth, his fourth this season, and the 'Dogs were rolling.
Kramer has been the triggerman for Turlock's offense much of the season, and he's a hitter that pitchers dread having to face. He's batting .571, having driven in 15 runs and scoring 14 more, and has shown speed with two triples to go with his power.
"(Kramer has) been real patient at the plate," said delaMotte, after Kramer went 2-for-4 with three runs scored. "He knows teams are going to pitch around him so he takes his walks when he has to. When teams make a mistake, he hits it pretty hard."
Turlock, which hosts BC Friday, got a surprisingly strong effort from right-hander David Herrera. He went the distance, keeping the ball low and persuading the Thunder hitters to ground out 12 times.
Herrera (3-1) is Turlock's No. 2 hurler — ace Vince Wheeland (3-0, 0.39) is expected to start Friday's rematch with BC — and brought a 4.08 ERA into the game. Opponents had been hitting .667 against him, but the Thunder managed only six hits Wednesday. He also helped himself at the plate with a triple and three RBIs for The Bee's third-ranked, large-school team. It was Turlock's third win in a row, having scored at least eight runs in each of the wins.