Drifton, Pa. - Scoring came at a premium on a cold windy evening matchup of unbeaten teams, Penn State Hazleton and Penn State Brandywine. Both teams had ample scoring opportunities, but quality pitching and defense stranded a combined 21 batters in the closely contested battle. After Hazleton scored the game's opening run, Brandywine responded to take the lead and held the advantage until the seventh frame. After cutting the deficit to one run in the sixth inning. Hazleton rallied to tie the ball game on wild pitch, but back to back doubles in the bottom half of the inning earned Brandywine a 4-3 victory and trip to the Penn State University Athletic Conference finale.
PSUAC Championship 3rd Round: Penn State Brandywine 4, Penn State Hazleton 3
The Lady Lions loaded the bases in the top half of the second with a walk to sophomore Kaitlyn Kaluzny (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) and back to back singles from sophomore Britani Esser (Willingboro, Nj.) and freshman Noelle Bergerstock (Muncy, Pa.). Kaluzny came home on a wild pitch to give the Lions the early lead, but Hazleton failed to pick up the big hit with runners in scoring position as Brandywine dodged a big inning, retiring the next two batters.
Facing a one run deficit, Brandywine answered in the bottom of the second, scoring a pair of runs to claim the lead. A lead off walk and two one out singles loaded the bases for Ariana Segich who delivered a two RBI double down the left field line, leaving runners at second and third with one away. Un-phased by the scores, sophomore Kayla Rhome (Marysville, Pa.) regained command to strike out the next batter and induce a ground ball to exit the inning.
Both teams went scoreless the next two and a half innings until Brandywine tacked on a score in the bottom of the fifth. With runners at the corners, Ashlee Stritzinger found a hole in the Hazleton infield to score Robyn Gannon from third. Down to their final six outs, Hazleton had the makings of a major rally in the sixth, loading the bases on three singles. Sophomore Vanessa Michael (Bloomsburg, Pa.) drove a ball to deep right field, scoring freshman Kayla Wirth (Bethlehem, Pa.) from third, but once again Brandywine was able to strand Hazleton runners and limit the damage to one run.
After blanking Brandywine in the bottom of the sixth, Hazleton came to their final at bat trailing 3-2. Kaluzny doubled to lead off the inning and advanced to third base with two outs. Down to their final swing, the Lions hopes were answered as a second Brandywine wild pitch brought Kaluzny in to tie score, completing the comeback and extending the ball game. But the game would not remain tied for long. With one out in the inning, Steph Harvey got into scoring position with a drive to the left centerfield gap and Ashlee Stritzinger followed with a double skirting the left field line to score Harvey and walk off the Lions with the 4-3 victory.
Stritzinger led all hitters in the game, going 3-3 on Sunday evening, scoring once and driving in two Brandywine scores including the walk off double. Ariana Segich finished 2-4 with two RBI to round out the top Brandywine batters.
Grace DeRosa earned the complete game victory for Brandywine. DeRosa gave up nine hits and four walks but stranded 12 Hazleton runners, limiting the Lions to just three runs.
Kaitlyn Kaluzny led Hazleton with two hits in two at bats with two walks. The sophomore twice came around to score on wild pitches in the second and seventh innings. Freshman Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) went 2-4 at the plate, while Kayla Wirth went 1-4 with a run scored.
Kayla Rhome pitched six and a third innings for Hazleton allowing four runs (three earned) in the loss. Rhome allowed nine hits and three walks but stranded nine Brandywine base runners, striking out nine batters in the process.
The Brandywine victory sends the defending champs back to the finals where they'll await the winner of the championship play-in game on Monday. Hazleton will face the winner of Penn State Beaver and Penn State Schuylkill on Monday morning at 11:00 a.m. and the winner will earn a trip to the finals needing to knock off Brandywine twice to capture the PSUAC crown.