WHITING | The initials “MV” were written in felt marker on the back of each Boone Grove baseball cap in memory of Mark Varlan.
The father of Cameron Varlan died a few weeks ago, but Mark’s presence was felt at Oil City Stadium on Wednesday night as his son’s ninth-inning, run-scoring double gave Boone Grove an extra-innings win over rival Hebron to open the Whiting Class 2A sectional.
The right fielder, batting out of the ninth spot in the Boone Grove lineup, lifted a rising line drive into the gap in right-center field with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring Matt Wiggins and giving the Wolves a 4-3 win.
“I was just thinking that I (had) to get the job done. I had to get a base hit for the person at second to score,” Varlan said. “I was just making sure to do it for my dad. I just had to do it for him.
“I just knew that my dad was watching me, looking out for me.”
Hebron coach John Steinhilber, who did not know of Varlan’s circumstances prior to being told after the game, called the ending “fitting.”
“He deserves that,” Steinhilber said.
Varlan went 2-for-4 from the nine-hole and was robbed of a would-be third hit when a fifth-inning liner was caught on a leap by Hebron shortstop Mike Mikulich.
“I think (Varlan’s) dad came to be with him this game,” Boone Grove head coach Rollie Thill said. “Things have lifted off of him the last couple of games, and he’s been a different kid. I think he’s getting some closure. I think he’s getting some things squared away, and he was awesome today.”
Before Varlan’s walkoff double, Boone Grove recovered from a 3-0 hole on Jake Gholston’s game-tying three-run home run in the fifth inning.
“I’ll be honest with you. I thought we were dead in the water,” Thill said. “(Hebron starter Donovan) Friel’s a good pitcher. He had things going. He was doing a good job. Jake put a good swing on a good pitch, and we got some good stuff.”
Wolves starter Jake Morris threw all nine innings in a complete-game win, allowing three runs, two earned, on three hits and five walks. He recorded six strikeouts.
“He’s our bulldog,” Thill said. “He’s turned into a major fighter for us.”