Nittany Lions sweep season opener at Valley Forge

Adam Michalesko awaits the pitch.
Adam Michalesko awaits the pitch.

Phoenixville, Pa. - After a series of postponements in mid-March, the Nittany Lions kicked off the season under first year Head Coach Justin Gutsie with a pair of wins at the University of Valley Forge on Thursday. 

Hazleton surged ahead with nine walks and five hits in the early innings of game one to give sophomore hurler Daniel Gilligan (Charlton, Ma.) an 11-0 cushion after the first two innings of play. Hazleton would tack on three additional runs in the fourth and fifth frames to total 14 runs on 11 hits, but Gilligan's exit led to opportunity for the home squad. The Defenders would touch up Nittany Lion pitching for 12 scores in the final three innings of play, forcing Hazleton to go to freshman pitcher Tanner Lawrence (Pinellas Park, Fl.) to sure up the victory by the final score of 14-12. 

In game two, freshman Adam Michalesko (Drums, Pa.) would take over the pitching duties, tossing four innings of two-run ball while going 3-for-3 at the dish to help pave the way for a second Hazleton victory. Once again, Hazleton took a commanding lead in the early innings, but after a two-run blemish in the third frame, the Nittany Lions would lock in defensively to shut down Valley Forge in their final four trips to the plate, earning the 8-2 road win.

Game 1: Penn State Hazleton 14, University of Valley Forge 12

Top Performers

Hazleton was led by freshman Tim Kindler (Mountain Top, Pa.) who went 4-for-5 with a double in his Nittany Lion debut, adding two RBI and two runs scored in the winning effort. Senior Corey Ryba finished with three RBI in the 2-for-5 effort at the dish while Joseph Bissol drove in a pair of runs on 2-for-3 hitting at the plate. 

Dan Gilligan tossed four scoreless frames for Hazleton to earn the win. Gilligan allowed just three hits, striking out four Defenders in his season debut on the hill.

James Jackson led Valley Forge with two doubles in three at bats, totaling five RBI and two runs scored to lead all hitters on Thursday. Wesley Hetrick added a run scored and three RBI, all of which came on his triple in the fifth inning.

Top 1st

The Nittany Lions benefitted from six free passes from the home squad to tally seven runs before taking the field. Senior Aaron Glass (Shippensburg, Pa.) and freshman Wilson Guanera (Camp Hill, Pa.) each earned RBI's on bases loaded walks with an additional score coming in on an infield error. Hazleton notched a score on double-play ball before RBI singles by Kindler and Bissol capped the first inning scoring for Hazleton at seven runs.

Top 2nd

A walk and two singles load the bases for Hazleton allowing Gilligan to drive in the 8th run for Hazleton on a free pass. Corey Ryba follows with a single to left center, delivering a pair of additional scores for the Lions and with one away and runners at the corners, Kindler beats out an infield single for Hazleton's fourth score of the frame.

Top 4th

A pair of lead-off singles help the Nittany Lions manufacture a run in the fourth. Kindler comes home to put the Lions up 12-0 on a routine double-play ball up the middle. 

Top 5th

Hazleton gets back to back singles to start off the inning, leading to an RBI single by Corey Ryba. Tim Kindler would follow with a single to load the bases  allowing Joe Bissol to work the count for and RBI walk to extend Hazleton's lead to 14-0.

Bottom 5th

Valley Forge would get on the board in their fifth at bat as Hazleton walked the bases loaded. With one out in the inning, Hetrick smacked a bases clearing triple over the Lions' right fielder, plating three and cutting Hazleton's lead to 14-3. After a hit batsman, the Defenders would nab a run on an errant pick-off attempt, then tally a fifth score on a wild pitch. Hazleton would exit the frame holding a nine run advantage.

Bottom 6th

In repeat fashion, the defenders would work the bases loaded via the free pass and bring in three runs with one out on a hard double to left center field. Following an infield error, Valley Forge would add their fourth run of the frame on a balk to cut the lead to 14-9 in favor of Hazleton.

Bottom 7th

Valley Forge got the first two hitters on base courtesy of a Nittany Lion fielding error and a walk. Tanner Lawrence would enter the game in relief with a five run lead, getting the first batter out on a strikeout, but the Defenders would rally in the inning, scoring on a wild pitch, then tacking on two late runs on a double to left center field with two outs. Lawrence would retire the side and secure the first Hazleton win of the year on a ground out to second base.

Game 2: Penn State Hazleton 8, University of Valley Forge 2

Top Performers

Michalesko went a perfect 3-for-3 at the dish with an RBI and three runs scored to lead the Hazleton hitting effort, all while throwing four strong innings of work. From the hill, the freshman struck out seven, allowing just two runs on four hits to pick up the win. 

Gilligan added three RBI, two of which came on a triple in the third inning to end the game 1-for-3 while Kindler continued his fine day with a pair of runs driven in, going 1-for-3 at the dish.

Tanner Lawrence would come in for the final nine outs of the contest, holding Valley Forge scoreless to earn his first save of the year.

Valley Forge was led by third baseman Marcus Fultz who went 2-for-2 with the lone RBI for the Defenders.

Top 2nd

Hazleton led off the inning with back to back walks, both of which came around to score on a triple by Dan Gilligan. With one out and runners on the corners, Tim Kindler makes the score 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Top 3rd

A pair walks and a wild pitch left runners on the corners with no one out for Hazleton. Adam MIchalesko lays down a bunt single, bringing in Hazleton's first score of the frame. Two batters later, Dan Gilligan walks to plate a second Nittany Lion run, before Greg Lyons adds a third score on a fielder's choice back to the pitcher. Moments later Tim Kindler grounds out to the shortstop but tacks on a score in the process, giving Hazleton a 7-0 advantage after three at bats.

Bottom 3rd

Valley Forge got the first two runners aboard with a base hit to center and walk. A wild pitch left runners at the corners and with two outs and the Defenders earn their first run of the game as Hazleton attempts to throw out the stealing runner from first base. In that same at bat, Marcus Fultz lines a double over the center fielder to tack on a second score, cutting the lead to 7-2 Hazleton.

Top  7th

Adam Michalesko leads off the frame with a single and finds his way to scoring position, tagging up on a fly-out to centerfield. Michalesko advances to third on a ground-out then comes around for an insurance score with two outs on a Defender miscue in the infield. 

Next Up

With two wins in the books, Hazleton looks to improve on that record as they quickly enter conference play. With a cancelation on Saturday, Hazleton will attempt to travel to Penn State York on Sunday, March 26 for double-header beginning at 1:00 p.m.