Drifton, Pa. - The Lady Lions rallied from down a run in the bottom half of the sixth inning to advance past Penn State Beaver in the second stage of the PSUAC postseason tournament by a final score of 8-6. Freshman Moriah Lynn (Berwick, Pa.) scored from second base on a fly out to deep center field to knot the score at 6-6, and with one runner aboard, freshman Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) drove a deep line drive over the right center field fence to bring in the go ahead runs. Sophomore Kayla Rhome (Marysville, Pa.) retired the side in the top of the seventh to send Hazleton to the championship game qualifier where Hazleton will face Penn State Brandywine on Sunday, May 8.
PSUAC Championship Round 2: Penn State Hazleton 8, Penn State Beaver 6
Hazleton took a 2-0 advantage in the first inning after Rhome blanked Beaver in their opening at bat. With runners on second and third base, Varela drove in the game's opening score with a line drive up the middle to plate sophomore Sara Stauffer (Mifflinburg, Pa.) from third base. Sophomore Britani Esser (Willingboro, Nj.) followed with a productive out to give the Lions the 2-0 lead, but Beaver would rebound the following frame.
A sacrifice fly with runners on the corners cut Hazleton's lead to just one run. Beaver base runners advanced to second and third and with two out Vanessa Jaskson drove a double to right field, plating two runs and giving Beaver a 3-2 lead. But Beaver's lead was short lived, as the Lady Lions would tie the game the following at bat on fielding error by the Beaver infield.
Beaver would retake the lead in the top half of the third, scoring two runs on single by Rachel Charlier, but Hazleton refused to give in. Sophomore Kaitlyn Kaluzny (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) chipped away at the Beaver advantage with an RBI infield single in the bottom half of the inning to cut the lead to just one run.
Both squads went scoreless in the fourth and would trade runs in the fifth frame. Beaver moved ahead by two in the top half on a Jackson RBI single, but sophomore Vanessa Michael (Bloomsburg, Pa.) kept Hazleton within striking distance, blasting a lead off home run, her seventh of the season, to cut the lead back to one.
The Lady Lions blanked Beaver in the sixth inning and started a rally in the bottom half with a pair of one out singles by Lynn and Stauffer. A deep fly ball off the bat of Michael was caught by the center fielder, but a fine defensive play turned into trouble, and the speedy Lynn avoided the tag at home to score all the way from second base and square the game at 6-6.
With two outs, and Stauffer on third, Varela came to the plate and fought off a series of pitches from the Beaver hurler. With two strikes, Varela laced a line drive home run to give Hazleton its first lead since the opening inning.
Beaver threatened in the top half of the seventh, earning a walk to start the inning, but a line drive was snagged by Stauffer in center field, and crisp throw to first base doubled up Beaver to clear the bases. Two batters later, Rhome induced a ground ball and Kaluzny threw out the batter at first to wrap up the postseason victory for Hazleton by the score of 8-6.
Rachel Charlier and Vanessa Jackson inflicted most of the damage on the Hazleton pitching for Beaver. Charlier went 2-3 with a pair of RBI, a run scored and two walks, while Jackson drove in three Beaver scores on two hits and walk in three at bats.
Kayla Rhome struggled to find the plate at times, but worked her way out of trouble when she needed to, stranding 10 Beaver base runners on the night. The sophomore ace walked a season high eight batters, but struck out nine, allowing six runs in the complete game victory.
Varela led the Lions with a clutch 3-4 performance at the plate, scoring twice and driving in three runs including the game winning blast in the sixth inning.
The victory advances Hazleton to showdown with Penn State Brandywine on Sunday where the winner will earn a trip to the championship series on Monday, May 9.