Hazleton, Pa. – Just over one year after Covid-19 shut down sports around the country, the Hazleton Nittany Lions finally returned to the diamond on Tuesday afternoon, squaring off with Penn State University Athletic Conference foe, Penn State DuBois. The Lions would be outhit 28-12 by DuBois, but a strong effort from the circle, solid defense and timely hitting would help the Hazleton squad earn a split in the double header.
Game 1: DuBois 8 - Hazleton 3 (Final, 7 Innings)
Hazleton jumped out ahead early with a pair of scores in the first frame. A leadoff single by freshman Jess Lepore (Telford, Pa.) kickstarted the offense and the Lions would get two runners aboard following a miscue by the Dubois infield. Lepore came around to score on a errant pitch from DuBois hurler Lizzy Scott and with two outs in the inning, Hazleton junior Sadie Heiney (Palmerton, Pa.) produced a clutch RBI single to give Hazleton a 2-0 advantage after the first inning.
DuBois strung three hits together in the top half of the second inning to shrink the lead to one score until Hazleton bounced right back in the third on an RBI single by freshman Linsey Fisk (Millville, Pa.). The Lions looked to be on the right track to victory, but DuBois pitcher Lizzy Scott settled in nicely in the circle after the third inning, allowing just two hits in the final four innings.
Over that same stretch of play, DuBois hitters collected 11 hits to take command of the game. DuBois added a pair of scores in the fourth and fifth frames to tie and then take a 5-3 lead over Hazleton, holding that cushion until the to top of the 7th inning when the visitors tacked on three insurance scores to seal up the victory in game one.
Nine players from the DuBois roster registered at least one hit in the game, led by Skylar Ceprish who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI while teammate Malliah Schreck added a 3-for-4 effort of her own at the dish with three RBI and two runs scored to lead all hitters in the ballgame. Lizzy Scott picked up the win pitching all seven frames and allowing just one earned run on five hits and three free passes.
Heiney led all Hazleton hitters with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate including the RBI single in the first. Lepore scored two runs while going 1-for-2 at the plate while Fisk and freshman Rebecca Baum (Stewartstown, Pa.) both went 1-for-3 in the contest. Junior Cassidy Lentz pitched well in the circle for the Lions, keeping them in contention until the final frame. Lentz ended the day with 6 earned runs allowed on 14 hits, zero walks and three strikeouts.
Game 2: DuBois 3 – Hazleton 9 (Final, 7 Innings)
After a quick start by DuBois, Hazleton posted a crooked number in the second inning to take a 4-1 lead early in the ballgame. The Lions used an error, a single by junior Sky Esterly (Nazareth, Pa.) and free pass to load the bases with one out in the inning, cashing in their first two runs on singles by Jess Lepore and junior McKayla Wildrick (Germansville, Pa.). Then with two outs, Hazleton tallied two more scores on a throwing error by the DuBois third baseman.
DuBois responded with a tally in the third inning but in game two, Hazleton would maximize nearly all of their offensive chances to keep DuBois trailing on the scoreboard.
A double by sophomore Sara Lamana tacked on Hazleton's fifth score of the game in the fourth inning followed by multiple scores in the fifth and sixth frames with key hits by freshman Natalee West (Nicholson, Pa.) and Linsey Fisk
Hazleton took a comfortable 9-3 lead into the final inning and despite a four hit effort in the seventh, Hazleton snuffed out the late rally with some quality defensive plays including a relay to home plate by Lepore to cut down a potential score by DuBois. Once again, DuBois outhit the Nittany Lions but unlike game one, Hazleton's pitching and defense would strand eight DuBois base runners to hang on for the 9-4 win.
Five DuBois batters combined for 13 of their 14 knocks in this one. Cierra O'Shell , Skylar Ceprish and Malliah Schreck finished the game with three hits each while Larissa James-LaBranche and Aspen Bishop added multi-hit efforts in the loss.
Rebecca Baum turned in a fine debut from the circle for Hazleton, combining with the solid defensive effort to limit DuBois to single scores throughout the contest. Baum served up four earned runs and 14 hits, but zero walks and three strikeouts translated into the freshman's first win in a Nittany Lion uniform.
All nine Hazleton hitters reached base safely in game two, eight of whom would round the bases to post Hazleton's nine runs on the scoreboard. McKayla Wildrick finished the game as Hazleton's top hitter with a pair of hits in three at bats, including an RBI and a run scored while Linsey Fisk ended her day 1-for-4 with two RBI.
Next up: Hazleton is all set for a home and away series with Penn State Scranton over the weekend. Stay tuned to psuhazletonsports.com for updates on game dates and times as forecasted weather may affect the current schedule for a Friday/Saturday series.