DuBois, Pa. - Hazleton's championship hopes were put to rest on Monday morning following a 2-1 loss at Heindl Field to Penn State DuBois. The Lady Lions' pitching and defense was good enough to win on most days, but DuBois' Lizzy Scott held Hazleton to just six total base runners edging out freshman Madison Clark (Emmaus, Pa.) in the pitchers duel.
Both pitchers were on their game in this one. Through the first five innings, Clark struck out the side twice and gave up just three hits to DuBois. Clark faced minimal trouble but on the rare occassion that DuBois threatend to score, the Hazleton hurler was quick to eliminate any challenge. Clark and the defense stranded five Dubois base runners through five innings of play and finally broke the 0-0 tie in the bottom half of the inning.
Up until the fifth frame, Hazleton had been held to just one hit, an infield single by sophomore Nicolette Kessler (Bangor, Pa.) and three total runners. Kessler came to the plate once more in the fifth inning and with one out laid down a beatiful bunt along the third base line, reaching safely for the second straight at bat. The sophomore promptly stole second base and for just the second time in the game, Hazleton had a runner in scoring position. Lizzy Scott struck out the next hitter but with two outs the lineup turned back over to the lead-off hitter, freshman Jaclyn Hess (Bangor, Pa.). Hess took the first pitch outside and locked in on the next toss, slapping the ball down the right field line. Kessler scored easily from second base to break the stalemate and give Hazleton the first lead of the gae at 1-0.
Just when it looked like Hazleton was in great shape to advance, DuBois broke through against Clark. Singles by MacTavish and Fatula started off a sixth inning rally and the pair advanced to to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Clark made a good pitch to the next batter, but the blooper fell in behind second base, scoring MacTavish to knot the score at 1-1. Hazleton was still in trouble with one out and runners at the corners until a Clark snagged a weak line drive and turned to first base to complete the double play and escape the inning.
The Lady Lions went down in order in the bottom half of the sixth keeping the momentum with DuBois. Though Clark had pitched excellent to this point, a bases on balls would come back to haunt her. After striking out the first hitter, the Hazleton hurler issued the free pass to Dubois' Cayleigh Huffman who had doubled earlier in the game. Huffman advanced on a sac bunt and with two outs Hazleton was unable to get the ender. Back to back singles by Makenzie Lukehart and Kayleigh MacTavish would send in the eventual game winning score. After picking up just three hits in the first five innings, DuBois got to Clark for five hits in the final two frames to move ahead on the scoreboard.
Meanwhile, Lizzy Scott continued to cruise after allowing the score to Hazleton, retiring five straight hitters after the RBI single by Hess. An infield single by junior Jerrika Chorba (Bloomsburg, Pa.) but Scott would retire the next two hitters, inducing a pop up and a weak line out to end the game 2-1 in favor of DuBois.
Kessler, Hess and Chorba would combine for all four of Hazleton's hits who went a combined 4-for-26. Clark's performance was excellent and would have won on most days. The Hazleton freshman gave up two runs on eight hits, striking out nine DuBois hitters in seven innings of work.
Next up: Despite the loss, the overall body of work by the Lady Lions spoke volumes to to voters in the United States Collegiate Athletic Associaiton. Hazleton picked up the #7 seed in the upcoming USCAA National Championships in DuBois, Pa. and will continue to compete in 2019. The Lady Lions earn a first round matchup with rival Penn State Brandywine on Monday, May 13 at 10:00 a.m. in Heindl Field. This will be Hazleton's sixth matchup with Brandywine this season and currently lead the series 3-2. More to come on National Championship week in the days to come.