By Gary R. Rasberry
ST. MARYS -- For St. Marys American Legion Post 323, it was a story of scoring early and then holding on for dear life.
Post 323 scored 13 runs in the first four innings and led by 11 through five innings but Piqua Post 184 came back to make a game of it before St. Marys came away with a 13-10 win that saw a total of four home runs, 13 walks, six hit batsmen and 14 Piqua batters striking out.
The win keeps St. Marys unbeaten in Legion play at 4-0 as Piqua drops to 4-6.
Post 323 belted out 13 hits on the evening, all but two of them came in the first four innings when St. Marys had no trouble getting on base.
"We hit a wall," said St. Marys coach Andy Dennings. "We got a little complacent. A couple errors here and there let in a couple runs. Give us credit, though, we hung in there. It's a character building game." The big hits came from Wapakoneta's Josh Varno. Varno, who is known more for his arm -- earning a scholarship to Indiana State for pitching -- than his bat, went 3-for-4 -- being denied a fourth hit when the Piqua centerfield had a near out go off his glove for a three-run scoring error -- with six runs batted in. Four of Varno's RBI came in the fourth on a grand slam. Varno almost had a two-homer night in the second when a hard shot to right bounced off the top of the fence and came back into the field of play for a double. Varno needed just a triple, a hit he said he has never had, to get the cycle, but after the grand slam he was given the rest of the night off.
"Last night I had a bunch of bloopers," said Varno. "Tonight might be the night to get on a role. This is my third year with (Post 323) and this might be the best hitting team. They're tearing the cover off the ball."
Post 323 got runners on base by about every way possible. Michael Walker, who came in for starter Jay Caldwell after Caldwell lasted just one inning, hit five batters in 21/3 innings. Of the five that got hit, only one failed to cross the plate.
Piqua began to rally in the sixth in an attempt to first elude the run rule -- which is triggered in the seventh rather than the fifth in legion play. A string of errors and hits chased Mark Dierin-ger from the mound after getting the first two outs but allowing three runs. Brandon Freytag came in from leftfield to the mound and got a strikeout for the third out.
Freytag allowed three runs in the eighth, all coming off a Ryan Callison home run. Piqua also got home runs in the game from Tyler Christells and Matt Roberts to pace the hitting attack.
Dieringer, Freytag and Placie combined to strike out 14 and walk six in the game.
In addition to Varno's big night, Alex Fuerst went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Celina grads and brothers Scott and Sean Boley each scored three times in the game.
St. Marys Post 323 returns to action this weekend at the Troy Tournament.