Hazleton back on track with Scranton sweep

Brett Kosciolek at first base for the Nittany Lions.
Brett Kosciolek at first base for the Nittany Lions.

Drifton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions hit the brakes on their recent skid and it couldn't have come at a better time. Hazleton kicked off Penn State University Athletic Conference play on Saturday with a visit from Penn State Scranton and with the Lions in much need of a win, Hazleton came through in a big way. Sophomore Colin Stauffer (Hazleton, Pa.) stole the show, leading the Nittany Lions to wins by the scores of 10-0 and 14-4. Stauffer tossed four innings of shut-out work in game one to pick up the win from the hill and combined for seven hits in the double-header that led to nine runs driven in. 

Game 1: Penn State Hazleton 10, Penn State Scranton 0 - Final/5 Innings

Stuaffer was dynamite from the mound in game one, striking out six batters in four innings of work while allowing just three hits and two walks. With the sophomore shutting down the opponent on their end, the Nittany Lions combined for 11 hits and eight walks that gave Hazleton ample opportunities to tack on runs to pick up their first win in the PSUAC.

Stauffer stranded two base runners in the first inning and Hazleton took advantage of three consecutive infield hits to plate two runs in the first inning but it was the second frame that set the tone for the day. After striking out the side in the top half of the inning, Hazleton loaded the bases for Stauffer who promptly cleared the bags with a double to left field. The sophomore came around to score on a Scranton miscue in the infield and sophomore Josh Malkemes (Mountain Top, Pa.) cleaned up the inning with an RBI single to increase the Hazleton advantage to 7-0 after two innings. 

Hazleton tacked on a score in the fourth frame without ever getting a hit in the inning and went on to shut the door in the fifth stanza. Three straight walks by Scranton paved the way for Stauffer's fourth RBI in the game, coming on an infield hit passed the Scranton pitcher. Needing just one tally to end the game, sophomore Brett Kosciolek (Lake Hauto, Pa.) cleaned up the remaining work, smacking a single to left to end the game with a walk-off RBI for a 10-0 win for Hazleton. 

Eight Nittany Lions picked up hits in game including a 3-for-4, four RBI effort from Stauffer. Brett Kosciolek added two hits in three trips to the plate while senior Charles Karchner (West Hazleton, PA)went 1-for-2 with two runs scored. 

Game 2: Penn State Hazleton 14, Penn State Scranton 4 - Final/6 Innings

Scranton took an early lead in game two but in the end, two big innings from the Nittany Lion offense spelled defeat for the visitors. Amplified from the game one total, Scranton issued Hazleton 13 walks in the second end of the double-header, a stat that would ultimately lead to their demise. Hazleton took full advantage of the free passes, converting eight of those walks into scores to help secure the two game sweep.

The visitors claimed a 2-0 lead after two innings, scoring in the first frame via a Hazleton error in the outfield and adding a sacrifice fly in the top of the second. Scranton appeared to be in good shape through midway through the bottom half of the inning but with two outs and runners at first and second base, Hazleton rallied to close out the frame. A walk to Karchner loaded the bases and a patient effort by sophomore Dominic Yannuzzi (Hazleton, PA) led to the third free pass of the inning and an RBI. That mistake extended the inning bringing up the middle of the order and Stauffer made the Scranton defense pay once more. This time, Stauffer tripled to the big part of the ball bark, emptying the bases and giving Hazleton a 4-2 lead. Kosciolek followed in suit, scoring Stauffer on a single to left to put the Lion on top by three runs heading into the third inning. 

Freshman Jacob Taschler (Palmerton, Pa.) came into the game in relief in the third inning for Hazleton and cruised through his first inning of work until hitting a snag in the fourth inning. A clutch two-out single by Scranton pinched the Hazleton cushion to two runs but Hazleton erased that hiccup in their next at bat. Yet again, Stuaffer came up big for the Lions, knocking a single to plate Karchner bringing the score to 6-3 after four innings. 

With the game still yet to be determined, the Lions added an insurance run in the fifth frame, taking advantage of two walks that extended the inning. Now it was Karchner's turn and with two outs in the frame, the senior registered an infield hit with the bases loaded, extending the lead to 7-3 in favor of Hazleton. Scranton responded with a score off Taschler in the top of the sixth but Brett Kosciolek shut the door on any ideas Scranton had of a comeback. 

Hazleton entered the bottom half of the sixth frame with 7-4 cushion and closed the book on Saturday's action with a huge frame. The wheels came off for the Scranton defense in the sixth leading to three scores for the Lions and a bases loaded look for Karchner. The senior smoked a triple to right field to clear the bases and shuring up the win for the Lions who found themselves just one run shy of a mercy rule victory. Fittingly, Stauffer sealed the deal two batters later with his seventh hit of the day, driving in Karchner to give Hazleton the 14-4 win. 

Next up: After rain-outs on Friday, the Nittany Lions will look to make up Friday's solo game at Scranton on Tuesday, April 2 at 3:00 p.m.