Ashton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions kicked off their season on Wednesday evening against the Patriots of the University of Valley Forge. Hazleton looked rusty in their first outing of the season, dropping the first end of the double-header by the score of 19-2 but picked up their play in game two. The Lions battled to a 8-5 defeat against the Patriots in the final game of the day, although they out-hit UVF 11-to-7 in the second matchup.
Game 1: Penn State Hazleton 2, University of Valley Forge 19 - Final
The pitching and hitting for the Nittany Lions was not on point in game one. The Lions registered just six hits and three walks in the contest, leaving nine base runners on base in the loss. Hazleton pitchers surrendered six runs in three separate innings for the Patriots and posted four defensive errors which contributed to the lopsided defeat. Hazleton's two scores came in the sixth frame when junior Chris Neyhard (Bloomsburg, Pa.) reached safely on a Patriots error, allowing senior Colin Hoy (Harlysville, Pa.) and freshman Jacob Barto (Schnecksville, Pa.) to cross the plate. Freshman Devin Wertz (Hegins, Pa.) was strapped with the loss in game one, throwing two innings while allowing six earned runs on six hits.
Game 2: Penn State Hazleton 5, University of Valley Forge 8 - Final
Hazleton's play made a significant turnaround in game two after the Lions tied up the ball game after scores in the second and third frames. Following a lead off double by sophomore Jared Joyce (Jim Thorpe, Pa.) in the second inning, freshman Eli Tyrrell (Halifax, Pa.) singled up the middle with one out to drive in the first score of the game for Hazleton. After a flawless inning of work by senior Mark Kokinda (Lansford, Pa.) on the mound in the bottom of the second, Hazleton turned a lead off walk into a score. Once again it was Joyce inflicting the damage but this time Joyce drove in the run, cashing in Colin Hoy from second base on a two-out base hit to knot the game at 2-2.
Favor would not be on Hazleton's side however as Kokinda ran into trouble to start off the bottom of the third inning. The senior issued three free passes to start off the frame, ultimately leading to a four-run flurry by the Patriots. Hazleton chipped away with single scores in the top half of the fifth and sixth frames to get back within striking distance but Valley Forge responded in the bottom of the sixth, using a pair of hits and a Nittany Lion defensive miscue to tack on two insurance scores to go up 8-4 with just one inning to play. A single by junior Eddie Wess (East Stroudsburg, Pa.) led to a two-out RBI single by senior Ryan Wingerter (Dingman's Ferry, Pa.) but the rally wasn't enough to overcome the four-run deficit.
Four players recorded two or more hits in game two for the Nittany Lions. Joyce was the breakout player of the bunch, going 3-for-4 with double, two RBI and a run scored. Eli Tyrrell finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored with Eddie Wess and Devin Wertz going 2-for-4 in the losing effort. Kokinda bounced back after the crooked third inning but exited the game after four innings, allowing six runs on five hits and three walks to earn the loss.
Next up: Penn State Hazleton will travel to the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, Sc. on Saturday and will have a full week of games in the Palmetto state beginning on Sunday, March 5.