HOWLAND - There was a chill in the air and a brisk breeze was blowing in from center field Monday at Lewis Field.
Normally those conditions aren't conducive to long-ball hitting, but try telling that to the Poland Bulldogs softball team. They took on the Howland Tigers and the elements and conquered both in an 8-0 All-American Conference win.
The hard-hitting Bulldogs had 13 hits, including two home runs by Taylor Miokovic and one each by Marissa Trevis and Aleah Hughes. Poland also ripped five doubles to make life easy for Hughes, who went seven innings to earn the win.
"I think it's kind of a classic way you score runs," Tigers coach Bill Amero said. "Five of seven innings they got the lead-off batter on, somehow. Our lead-off batter has to be on, and our job is to keep their lead-off batter off.
"I can't say that accounted for all the runs. You have to give them credit. They had their hitting shoes on."
Almost every batter in the Bulldogs' lineup contributed in some way. Miokovic flashed a wicked bat, driving two pitches from Hannah Burke well beyond the fence. Her second solo home run was into the teeth of the wind and didn't get off the ground much more than 12 feet. Trevis had two hits, including a three-run home run in the sixth that extended the lead to 7-0.
Hughes started the scoring when she opened the second inning with a double and crossed the plate on a double by second baseman Ally Deemer. Hughes made it 2-0 leading off the fourth with a home run to deep left center, and doubles by Meredith Tesone and Trevis produced a second run in the fourth.
"Aleah and Taylor are two good hitters that we're trying to teach fundamentals and stay on their pitch," Bulldogs coach Matt Campbell said. "Just do your job and hit it somewhere. We were fortunate that they hit it out."
The Bulldogs are 8-2 and 2-1 in the AAC. The Tigers are 2-3 and 1-2 in the conference.
It's still way too early to tell how the season will go for any team. Most haven't had a chance to develop a winning mentality because of the bad weather.
"Not to make excuses, but it's tough to get consistency," Amero said. "We haven't played since last Tuesday, but that's still no excuse. Every other team in the area is playing in the same weather and the same conditions as we are."
The Tigers looked like they might have been able to get to Hughes in the second inning when Hannah Kowach singled with one out. Lexi Ross then lined a pitch straight at Deemer, who caught the ball and flipped it to first to double up Kowach.
Howland had runners at second and third with no outs in the fourth inning. Monica Kotyuk lined out to Hughes. Olga Grech struck out, and Kowach flied to center.
Hughes, who struck out eight and walked two, wasn't seriously tested the rest of the game. The sophomore was on the junior varsity when standout Erin Gabriel handled the Bulldogs' pitching last season. Gabriel is now attending the University of Tennessee on a softball scholarship.
"She's learning. She has all the potential in the world," Campbell said of Hughes. "She's a kid that's willing to listen and do what she's told to do. Hopefully, she continues to grow."
The teams play again today at Poland.