Drifton, Pa. - Following a ten day hiatus, Penn State Hazleton softball was finally back in action, facing one of the Penn State University Athletic Conference's top squads in Penn State Schuylkill. The Lady Lions fell behind in both games of the double-header with their local rival, but stormed back in both contests to pick up their first PSUAC victories of 2016.
Game 1: Penn State Hazleton 7, Penn State Schuylkill 5
Penn State Schuylkill stormed out of the gates with five first inning base runners, putting two runs on the board to secure an early lead over Hazleton. Schuylkill would extend their advantage to three runs by the third inning, the largest deficit the Lady Lions have faced in over a month.
Hazleton's bats came to life in the middle innings. Sophomore Sara Stauffer (Mifflinburg, Pa.) and freshman Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) each collected RBI hits in the third and fourth frames to lead a Lady Lion offensive charge and claim a 6-3 advantage by the fifth inning. Schuylkill refused to give in, blasting three home runs to pull within two of the Lady Lions, but Hazleton's pitching withstood the test. Sophomore Kayla Rhome (Marysville, Pa.) allowed four Schuylkill scores, but held her opponent to just four hits before exiting the game after six innings of work.
Sam Varela came in to shut the door in the final frame with a three run lead, but faced stiff opposition from Schuylkill's Erin Luckenbill, who launched her second home run of the game, a solo shot to centerfield, to cut the lead to two with just one out in the inning. After picking up the second out, Varela walked three straight to load the bases for Schuylkill before inducing a game ending ground ball to freshman Moriah Lynn (Berwick, Pa.) at third base.
Schuylkill leads off with a pair of hits and scores their first run of the game on a misplayed ball in the Hazleton outfield. Two uncharacteristic walks from Kayla Rhome bring in a second Schuylkill score to put Hazleton behind 2-0 after one inning of play.
Erin Luckenbill leads off the inning with a home run to centerfield, extending the Schuylkill advantage to 3-0.
Rhome and Lynn lead off the inning with singles and put runners on the corners for Stauffer. The center fielder drives in Rhome with a double to put the Lions on the board. A walk from Schuylkill loads the bases for Varela who delivers an RBI single to centerfield. Lynn scores on the play but Stauffer is thrown out at the plate. Hazleton cuts the Schulkill lead to just one, trailing 3-2.
Hazleton gets runners on the corners yet again with two singles to start the fourth inning. Moriah Lynn provides a productive ground out to knot the score at 3-3, and Stauffer follows with an RBI single to left field, scoring sophomore Kaitlyn Kaluzny (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) to take the lead. Varela and freshman Kayla Wirth (Bethlehem, Pa.) follow with bases loaded singles to bring in two more Hazleton runs, pushing their lead to 6-3.
The Lady Lions load the bases again and are nearly double-up on an infield line-out from Stauffer, but an errant throw allows a Hazleton score, extending their advantage to 7-3.
Marcella Scheeler leads off the Schuylkill at-bat with a solo home run, cutting the Hazleton lead to three runs.
Luckenbill hits a one out home run off relief pitcher Sam Varela, but once again the Lady Lions allow the big hit with no runners aboard. Schuylkill loads the bases with two outs, but Varela escapes with the save on a ground out to third.
Rhome pitches six strong innings allowing four runs (three earned) on just four hits. The sophomore walks six, but strikes out five to pick up her sixth win of the season.
Sara Stauffer goes 2-4 with two RBI and a runs scored and Sam Varela goes 2-3 with two RBI to lead the Hazleton hitters.
Erin Luckenbill smacks two home runs, finishing 2-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. Marcella Scheeler also drives in a pair of runs going 1-2 with a home run.
Cara Brennan pitched a complete game for Schuylkill, allowing seven runs (four earned) on 10 hits and six free passes.
Game 2: Penn State Hazleton 7, Penn State Schuylkill 6
In a back and forth game of can you top this, Penn State Hazleton's luxury of the final at-bat proved to be the difference in game two. Each time the Lady Lions put runs on the board, Penn State Schuylkill responded to tie the following at bat. A Sam Varela two-run home run in the sixth inning appeared to seal up the victory for Hazleton, but once again Schuylkill refused to go quietly. Down two runs in the final frame, Schuylkill notched four hits off Varela to tie the game and chase her from the circle. Kayla Rhome came in to relieve the freshman, but surrendered a go-ahead sacrifice fly with runners on second and third base. Rhome would work around Luckenbill who added her third home run of the afternoon earlier in the contest, and escape the inning to bring up the Hazleton offense facing just a one run deficit.
Trailing by one, the Lady Lion offense went to work in the seventh inning. Sophomore Britani Esser (Willingboro, Nj.) worked a walk to start the inning and advanced to second on a Kaluzny single through the right side of the infield. After a hit batsman loads the bases, Moriah Lynn rips a line drive to right field but is robbed of a hit by the Schuylkill defense and the Lions were unable to score. With one down, and no way to work around the hot bat of Stauffer, Schuylkill surrenders a free pass and Hazleton ties the game. Facing the same scenario with sophomore Vanessa Michael (Bloomsburg, Pa.) at the plate, Schuylkill's Cara Brennan, hits Michael trying to make her pitch, giving Hazleton the go ahead run and the game two victory.
Britani Esser singles in Varela from second base for the Lady Lions first score of the game.
Haily Wolff ties the game with a two-out single, scoring Megan Boyer from second base.
With runners on second and third, Sara Stauffer delivers an RBI single to left field to take back the lead. Vanessa Michael follows with a sacrifice fly to put Hazleton up 3-1.
Erin Luckenbill leads off the inning with her third home run of the game. Schuylkill gets runners on second and third base after a pair of singles and ties the game on a ground out to second base.
Sam Varela smacks her third home run of the season, a two run shot with junior Tina Beiland (Philadelphia, Pa.) on base to put Hazleton up 5-3 heading into the final inning.
Schuylkill adds two runs on four hits to tie Hazleton and chase Varela from the circle. Rhome allows the sacrifice fly putting Schuylkill up 6-5 going into the final Hazleton at bat.
The Lady Lions load the bases and tie the game on a walk to Stauffer. Michael drives in the winning run on a hit by pitch to end the game.
Sam Varela pitched six and a third before exiting the game. The freshman allowed six runs on 13 Schuylkill hits while striking out three batters. Rhome entered and picked up her seventh win after working out of the seventh inning jam.
Varela finished 2-3 at the plate with the two run home run in the sixth inning to lead the Hazleton offense. Britani Esser added an RBI and a run scored going 2-3 at the dish while teammates Kayla Wirth and Moriah Lynn each added two hits in the victory.
Megan Boyer led the Schuylkill offense with a 3-4 performance, including one RBI and a run scored. Hayley Wolff added a pair of hits while Luckenbill finished 1-1 with a solo home run.
Penn State Hazleton faces what could be their toughest test in the PSUAC in rival and defending champion Penn State Brandywine. The two squads meet for the first time since the 2015 PSUAC title game on Thursday, April 14 in Drifton, Pa. at 3:00 p.m.