Drifton, Pa. - The Lady Lions entered Sunday's contests with third place Penn State Beaver needing to win out to secure at least a share of the top spot in the Penn State University Athletic Conference at the conclusion of regular season play. Penn State Hazleton took advantage of three Beaver errors in the final inning of game one to push four runs across the plate, stealing game one by the score of 5-4. After the break, the Lady Lions kept the momentum going tagging Beaver pitching for eight hits that led to a five run advantage, but Beaver clawed back with 12 hits in the final six innings to take game two by the score of 9-7 to earn the spilt decision with Hazleton. The game two loss leaves Hazleton with a 12-2 PSUAC record and a guaranteed two seed in the PSUAC tournament, but the Lady Lions will now need some help to tie or top Penn State Brandywine in the standings.
Not lost in the exciting action on Sunday was the honoring of five Lady Lions who will be departing the campus at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Junior Leanne Lagowski (Wrigthsville, Pa.) and sophomores Kayla Rhome (Marysville, Pa.), Sara Stauffer (Mifflinburg, Pa.), Kaitlyn Kaluzny (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.), and Britani Esser (Willingboro, Pa.) all will end their Hazleton softball careers at the end of the season, each of whom has made outstanding contributions to the campus and Lady Lion Softball as great players, teammates and students.
Game 1: Penn State Hazleton 5, Penn State Beaver 4
The Beaver offense mounted a strong attack right out of the gates, sending seven batters to the plate in the opening frame, leading to a three run advantage against Rhome and the Lions. Rhome faced stressful innings all game, but the hurler and her defense persevered to strand 11 Beaver base runners including bases loaded jams in the third and fourth frames. Hazleton was held scoreless all the way to sixth inning before sophomore Vanessa Michael (Bloomsburg, Pa.) launched her sixth home run of the season to get Hazleton on the scoreboard.
Trailing by three runs in the seventh and final inning, Hazleton freshman Noelle Bergerstock (Muncy, Pa.) started the rally with an infield single. A dropped pop up led to a fielder's choice putting Kaluzny on base and a single from freshman Moriah Lynn (Berwick, Pa.) moved Kaluzny to third with Lynn following at second base following an error by the Beaver outfield. Sara Stauffer drove in Kaluzny with a sacrifice fly but Hazleton was quickly running out of outs. A walk to Michael, gave way for freshman Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) who delivered an RBI single to right field driving in Lynn from second and putting pinch runner junior Tina Beiland (Philadelphia, Pa.) at third base. Varela stole second base to put herself in scoring position and with two outs Britani Esser came to the plate. A lengthy Esser at bat culminated in potential game ending pop up, but the Beaver infield muffed the ball. Beiland scored easily and running hard on contact, Varela rounded third to score on the costly error, giving Hazleton the miracle victory by a score of 5-4.
Kayla Rhome earned her 13th victory of the season, her 12th complete game of 2016. Rhome allowed just four hits, but seven walks and several Lady Lions errors kept the Hazleton ace hard at work in the contest. The sophomore consistently worked her way out of trouble, blanking Beaver in five of her seven innings pitched, striking out five batters on the day, including her 200th career strikeout in the first inning.
Vanessa Michael and Sam Varela led the Hazleton offense both registering 2-3 performances at the plate with a run scored and an RBI.
Penn State Beaver was led by Sarah Foose who finished the game 1-3 with two RBI.
Vanessa Jackson earned the tough luck loss from the circle for the visitors in game one, tossing six and two thirds innings. Jackson allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits while walking two and striking out six batters.
Game 2: Penn State Beaver 9, Penn State Hazleton 7
Hazleton puts the pedal to floor, slashing eight first inning hits to take an early lead over Beaver. A two RBI single from Leanne Lagowski caps the five run inning for Hazleton.
Beaver bounced back in the top of the second inning with an RBI double from Brittany Zahn and an RBI single from Sunnie Liggett to cut the lead to three runs at 5-2 in favor of Hazleton.
Vanessa Michael would extend Hazleton's lead back to four with an RBI single in the third inning, but Beaver would erase the Hazleton cushion the very next half. Beaver would load the bases against Hazleton pitcher Sam Varela with a single to lead off the frame and two consecutive errors that led to a big fourth inning for the visitors. Beaver hitters notched two singles to score runs and took advantage of a fielders' choice and wild pitch to knot the score at 6-6.
Asia Borders would inflict damage on the Hazleton pitching in the next two frames to give Beaver a pair of go ahead runs. The senior led off the fifth frame with a triple and scored on a ground out to put Beaver up 7-6 after five, then Borders delivered an RBI single to center in the sixth to increase the lead over Hazleton to 8-6. Penn State Beaver would add an insurance run in the top of the seventh to extend the lead to three when a lead off single led to a ground out RBI.
Hazleton once again found themselves trailing Beaver by three in the seventh inning and threatened to make their second comeback of the day. Kaitlyn Kaluzny singled with one out in the inning, and following a fielder's choice for an out, Sara Stauffer reached on an infield miscue by the Beaver defense. A RBI single by Vanessa Michael gave Hazleton visions of a second two-out miracle rally, bringing Sam Varela to the plate. Varela fought off numerous pitches in a lengthy at bat, but Vanessa Jackson induced a foul ball caught for the third out to end the game, a 9-7 victory for Beaver.
Five Hazleton hitters collected multi hit games in the second contest, led by Vanessa Michael who scored and drove in a run in a 3-5 outing at the plate. Moriah Lynn, Sam Varela, Kaitlyn Kaluzny and freshman Kayla Wirth (Bethlehem, Pa.) all notched two hits in the ball game, though the Lions would leave 12 runners on base in the two run defeat.
Penn State Beaver equalled Hazleton's outing with 14 hits as well. Sunnie Liggett went 3-5 at the plate with two runs scored and two RBI while teammate Asia Borders added an RBI and a run scored in a 3-4 effort offensively.
Sarah Foose picked up the victory for Beaver, tossing five innings for the victory, with Vanessa Jackson coming in to pick up a four out save.
The Lady Lions wrapped up PSUAC regular season action and will wait for the results of Penn State Brandywine and Worthington Scranton's double header on Tuesday to determine final seeding in the PSUAC postseason. Hazleton will continue to get work in on the field as they await the May 7th conference tournament as they take on the University of Scranton Monday night at the Drifton Sports Complex followed by a double header at Drifton with SUNY Canton on Firday, April 29th that will wrap up Hazleton's regular season.