Hazleton, Pa. - The Lady Lions brand of "Earl Weaver" style of offense vaulted the squad to the top of the charts in nearly all major hitting categories in 2017 and resulted in a runner up finish in the Penn State University Athletic Conference playoffs. Hazleton led the PSUAC in RBI, slugging percentage and home runs with a collective 26 blasts this season, one more home run than the combined total of all the other teams in the conference. Those gaudy numbers led to string of first-team All-Conference selections earlier this week with honors going to sophomores Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) and Vanessa Michael (Bloomsburg, Pa.) as well as freshmen Erin Schmick (Macungie, Pa.) and Jerrika Chorba (Bloomsburg, Pa.) who in addition to her All-Conference selection was name PSUAC newcomer of the year.
Sam Varela was a dominant force not only in the batter's box, but the pitching circle as well. The sophomore took over in 2017 as the ace of the Hazleton pitching staff and delivered the squad a league-best 12 wins with a 3.30 earned run average while mowing down 87 hitters, the third highest strikeout total in the conference. On April 4, Varela was named USCAA pitcher of the week following a pair of shut-out victories including a perfect game against Penn State Wilkes-Barre.
The sophomore established herself as a top hitter in the conference last season and continued to wreak havoc on opposing pitching in 2017. Varela led the league and the nation with eight home runs and total the second highest total in the PSUAC with 40 RBI, bested only by one of her fellow Lady Lions. The sophomore raked in 48 hits including eight, three-hit performances culminating in the league's fourth highest batting average at .449 and led the conference with 18 extra base hits.
Vanessa Michael backed up her player of the year performance in 2016 with another stellar effort in her second season in a Lady Lion uniform. Michael led the conference with 46 RBI and while smashing the second most home runs with seven blasts. The sophomore registered two or more RBI's in nine games this season and had four or more RBI in five of those games. Michael totaled a season high seven RBI in a win over Penn State Schuylkill on March 30 where she collected three hits including one of her two grand slams in 2017, leading to a USCAA national hitter of the week honor.
Erin Schmick broke onto the scene as a versatile slugger for the Lady Lions. The freshman played multiple positions for the Lady Lions and steadily built her resume as a top hitter in the conference throughout the season. Schmick ranked third in the PSUAC in both home runs with four bombs and RBI with 30 runs driven in. The freshman totaled 10 extra base hits for Hazleton and finished the year, hitting safely in seven of her last eight games resulting in the third highest batting average for Hazleton at .362.
Jerrika Chorba started the season with just two hits in her first four games but quickly established herself as one of the top hitters in the country. From March 8 on, Chorba would rack up 20 multi-hit games including eight straight from March 25 to April 10. Chorba led the conference with 52 hits and 42 runs scored out of the lead off spot for Hazleton and her .482 batting average was the second highest in the nation amongst players who participated in 30 or more games in 2017. Chorba was named PSUAC hitter of the week following a six game set where she total 12 hits, two home runs and 11 runs scored.