Joe Storno threw a complete game and the St. Mary’s Panthers exploded for five runs in the fifth inning to defeat Piedmont, 7-1, on Tuesday.
The win gave St. Mary’s a 2-0 record in the BSAL (5-6 overall), a pretty good start for the team with an injury-plagued pitching staff. Storno is the ace-by-default, as the Panthers’ top two starters are both sidelined with shoulder problems, and knows the burden is on him to get his team through games.
“It feels good to be the number-one starter, since I was mainly a reliever last year,” said Storno, who threw 112 pitches against the Highlanders. “I know I have to go at least six innings for us to have a chance to win.”
The senior southpaw did better than that on Tuesday, going the distance. But he did so as if he were being scored on degree of difficulty, putting the leadoff man on base in each of the first five innings and stranding 12 runners in the first six frames.
“That’s how Joe pitches: lot of walks, lots of pitches,” St. Mary’s head coach Andy Shimabukuro said. “But he battles hard and gets through it most of the time.”
Second baseman Chris Alfert gave Storno a 1-0 lead with a towering homerun in the third inning off of Piedmont starter Ben Book, but helped hand back a run with a two-out error that allowed the Highlanders’ only run of the game.
The Panthers broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth. Book loaded the bases on two walks and his own error, and up stepped Storno, who had just missed a homer of his own in the previous at-bat. This time, he drove Book’s first pitch to the fence in right for a double, scoring two runs. Chase Moore followed with a two-run triple to nearly the same spot and scored on a Jeff Marshall single.
“We gave (Piedmont) lots of opportunities, and we only got a couple,” Shimabukuro said. “But that’s the name of the game, taking advantage of opportunities, and we did that and they didn’t”
Storno was in a similar situation in the Panthers’ first league game, taking a three-run lead into the seventh inning against St. Joseph two weeks ago. He gave up four runs before leaving the game that day, but the Panthers came back to win in the bottom of the inning.
“The St. Joe’s game was in the back of my mind, because I had a big lead in that game too,” Storno said. “It seems like we’re always in close games, and then we get some runs in the sixth or seventh inning.”
But the final inning was actually Storno’s easiest, getting three flyballs on just six pitches, including a nice running catch by Moore in centerfield to end the game.