Dunmore, Pa. - Following Sunday's rainout of the Penn State University Athletic Conference softball tournament at Worthington Scranton, Hazleton needed just two wins to capture the post season crown, beginning with an east vs. west matchup against Penn State Beaver. The Lady Lions would trail Beaver for nearly the entire game, but rallied late in the final two frames to edge their opponent 5-1 and advance to the championship game with Penn State Brandywine. Hazleton would go toe to toe with their eastern rival, but a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth inning plated two key scores for Brandywine who went on to secure their third straight championship by the score of 3-1 over Hazleton.
PSUAC Semifinal Round: Penn State Hazleton 5, Penn State Beaver 1
Freshman Jerrika Chorba (Bloomsburg, Pa.) and Breann Fetterman (Mountain Top, Pa.) set the pace at the top of the Lady Lion order. Both players notched a pair of hits and combined for three of Hazleton's five scores in the afternoon affair. Sophomore Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) tacked on a run scored and an RBI in a 1-for-4 effort while freshman Kiana Lukoskie (Trevorton, Pa.) tagged a clutch two-out single in the sixth inning to net a pair of RBI's for the Lady Lions.
Varela was dynamite in the circle once more for Hazleton, wrapping up her 12th win of the year. The sophomore kept the Lady Lions in the game, allowing just one unearned run on six hits and two walks.
Beaver was led by Jenna Petrucci and Lacey Weible, both finishing the game 2-for-4 at the plate. Vanessa Jackson ended the game 1-for-3 at the plate, and served up a fine effort of her own in the circle for Beaver. The hurler tossed five innings of shut-out ball before allowing the crooked inning in the sixth frame. Jackson finished the game allowing four earned runs on 10 hits and one walk, while striking out four batters.
Moments that Mattered
Shaky start for Hazleton
Facing some early game nerves, Hazleton was retired in order to start off the action and fumbled defensively in the first inning. The Lions allowed the first three Beaver hitters to reach safely via a single, fielder's choice and a walk. After a nice play to retire the first out and keep a zero on the scoreboard, Varela induces and infield pop-up, but Hazleton failed to convert the catch as two players collide, allowing Dina Cable to score from third base and give Beaver an early 1-0 lead.
Late life from the Lady Lion Offense
Both squads would be blanked over the next four frames until Hazleton came to bat in the top half of the sixth. Chorba, Fetterman and Varela would lead off the frame with three straight singles, equaling the Lady Lion's hit total in the game to this point. Varela's single to left center field would knot the score at 1-1 and after two straight outs to the next hitters, it looked like the game might remain in gridlock.
But hard earned walk by freshman Sarah Coolbaugh (Harding, Pa.) paved the way for Lukoskie to cash in with the biggest hit of the day, a soft line drive to center, scoring Fetterman and Varela in the process. Now with the lead, Sophomore Shelby Jollif (Dunkirk, Oh.) came to the plate, cashing in the fourth Lady Lion score of the frame. Jolliff smoked a ball off the first baseman and as the ball caromed towards second base, Coolbaugh hustled home to put Hazleton up 4-1.
After retiring the side in the bottom half of the sixth, Hazleton would tack on an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning. Chorba and Fetterman stayed hot at the plate, collecting back to back hits to leave runners at the corners. With two outs, sophomore Vanessa Michael (Bloomsburg, Pa.) put the ball on the ground between short and third base. Range to her right the Beaver shortstop got to the ball, but failed to field it cleanly, keeping the inning alive and expanding the Hazleton cushion to the final margin of four runs.
Beaver would threaten in the final inning, but Varela would leave the tying run stranded in the on deck circle. After managing just three knocks in the first five innings, the Lady Lions would combine for seven hits in the final two frames to complete the comeback. Hazleton's victory left the squad just one win away from the conference championship to be played later that evening.
PSUAC Championship Game: Penn State Brandywine 3, Penn State Hazleton 1
Julie Foeldes led all Brandywine hitters with a 2-for-3 performance, but it was Julia Allman who issued all the damage to Hazleton. After going hitless in her first two at-bats, Allman picked up the game-winning hit in the bottom of the sixth to drive in two scores for the defending champions.
Maura Moser earned the win in the circle for Brandywine pitching seven innings of one run softball. Moser allowed eight hits and struck out four batters en route to the conference title.
Hazleton out-hit Brandywine eight to five but had just two runners reach second base through the first six innings of action. Jerrika Chorba continued her hot streak on Monday, totaling three hits in the four trips to the plate. Kiana Lukoskie added a 2-for-3 effort while Varela finished 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Freshman Mary Kate Penczkowksi (Hanover, Pa.) offered a solid outing for Hazleton, allowing three earned runs in six innings of action. The freshman weaved her way out of trouble, striking out four batters, while allowing just five hits and three walks in the loss.
Moments that Mattered
Both teams would trade runs in the early stages of play. Brandywine capitalized on a Hazleton miscue in the infield, notching the game's first score on a throwing error that brought Ariana Segich in to score all the way from second base. Brandywine would go on to load the bases but with just one out, but Penczkowski would exit the frame with a pair of ground ball outs to strand three runners.
Hazleton would clean up the defense and respond two innings later when Bree Fetterman started a two out rally with a double to left field. Following up Fetterman's effort was Varela who smoked the ball off the first baseman allowing the hustling Fetterman to knot the score at 1-1.
Battle for the Title
In a game that saw both team's pitch well and make great plays in the field, both offenses were stymied through the first five innings of play. All that changed in the bottom half of the sixth inning as Brandywine threatened to break the 1-1 stalemate.
A single by Maddie Malfara and free pass issued to Nikki Velez left Penczkowski grinding to maintain the gridlock. The Hazleton hurler would retire the next two batters, but with runners at second and third and two outs, Allman strolled to the plate. The second baseman drove a hard ground ball up the middle, past the diving infield of Hazleton to deliver the clutch hit and score both Malfara and Velez on the play.
With the damage done, Hazleton responded with a double from Lukoskie and back to back singles from sophomore Noelle Bergerstock (Muncy, Pa.) and Chorba. Hazleton threatened to tie or even take the lead in the final at-bat and with two outs and the bases loaded Bree Fetterman looked to extend the game. Fetterman lined the ball back up the middle, but Moser snagged the liner in the circle leaving the eager bat of Sam Varela stranded in the on deck circle and capturing the PSUAC title for Brandywine.
The Lady Lions played excellent softball in the PSUAC post season, notching two wins in a set of three closely contested games. The loss to Brandywine leaves Hazleton with their second runner up finish in the past three years and brings the 2017 season to a close. Stay tuned for upcoming season-ending awards announcements in the coming days as we wrap up another outstanding season of Lady Lion Softball.