Lions split homestand with Schuylkill

Rafael Santos fields a ground ball at second base.
Rafael Santos fields a ground ball at second base.

Drifton, Pa. - After falling in game one of the series, Hazleton bounce back to split the final two games against rival Penn State Schuylkill. Sophomore Colin Stauffer (Hazleton, Pa.) tossed a gem in the first of two Hazleton home games, paving the way for a 2-1 walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh frame. After two days off, play resumed in Drifton on Tuesday night to finish out the three game set, but Schuylkill ran away with the rubber match 14-0 in five innings to win the series over Hazleton

Game One: Penn State Hazleton 2, Penn State Schuylkill 1

Colin Stuaffer cruised through the first six innings despite allowing the lead-off man aboard in the second and third frames. On both occasions, the sophomore and the defense navigated their way out of potential trouble, particularly in the third frame. Stauffer gave up two doubles in that inning but a successful pick off at second base kept Schuylkill off the board. 

Schuylkill's Jacob Leininger scattered three Hazleton hits through the first four innings of play until the Lions broke the 0-0 tie in the fifth inning. Back to back knocks led to the go ahead score with freshman Joan Vasquez (Hazleton, Pa.) coming around to score the game's first run on a single to right field by freshman Jacob Taschler (Palmerton, Pa.).

Although Stauffer needed just six outs to close out the win, Schuylkill had other intentions. A walk and a stolen base put a runner in scoring position with two outs and a clutch base hit by Schuylkill's Dylan Stephen drove in the tying run. Schuylkill's next hitter would reach safely leaving runners at the corners and a chance to take the lead, but Stauffer induced an inning-ending pop out to limit the damage to one run.

Forced to take their seventh at bat, freshman Nick Vital (Mountain Top, Pa.) led off the Hazleton half of the inning with a double to the gap in right field. Sophomore Josh Malkemes (Mountain Top, Pa.) replaced Vital at second, adding speed to the bases and Hazleton worked to try to manufacture the game winning score. The Lions would send four more batters to the plate without sending in the walk-off score but with two out and the bases loaded, all that would change. With no room for error, Schuylkill was forced to pitch to freshman Wyatt Kindler (Mountain Top, Pa.) and the rookie center fielder made the most of his opportunity. Kindler drove a shot down the left field line, delivering the walk-off single passed the diving Schuylklill outfielder and scoring Malkemes with ease to end the game in emphatic fashion. 

Kindler's walk-off hit was the freshman's second knock in four trips to the plate, matching the best effort of the day for Hazleton who collected seven combined hits on the day. Likewise, Joan Vasquez picked up two hits in the win, adding a walk and a run scored to round out Hazleton's top performers at the dish. Stauffer earned the complete game win, allowing just one earned run on five hits while striking out six Schuylkill hitters.

Game Two: Penn State Hazleton 0, Penn State Schuylkill 14 - Final/5 Innings

Two days removed from the Nittany Lions walk off win, Schuylkill paid the Nittany Lions another visit, though this one would turn out much different for the home squad. Both squads battled cold and rainy conditions but Schuylkill handled the weather to blow out Hazleton with ease. The Lions allowed 13 hits to the visitors, adding nine errors that contributed to the mercy rule loss. 

An indicator of what was to come, Schuylkill led off the game with the first hitter reaching safely via a Hazleton error. The Lions committed two errors in the frame and Schuylkill added three hits to take a 4-0 before taking the field. Hazleton settled in over the next two innings of play but never got the sticks going. Schuylkill added two more runs in the top of the fourth before Hazleton collected their first hit on offense in the bottom of the fourth inning. Despite their difficulties the game was still within reach but all that would change in the fifth inning. 

Everything unraveled for the Nittany Lion defense in the fifth inning. The Lions committed five errors in the frame, failing to record an out until the 12th batter of the inning. Schuylkill contributed five hits to the eight run inning although the Hazleton defensive struggles paved the way for the snowman on the scoreboard. Schuylkill made quick work of the Lions in the bottom of the fifth to end the game via the mercy rule.

Wyatt Kindler and freshman Rafael Santos picked up Hazleton's only hits in the ball game, both finishing 1-for-2 at the plate. Sophomore Brett Kosciolek (Tamaqua, Pa.) got tagged with the loss, allowing five earned runs on ten hits. 

Next up: With five games left in the regular season, the Lions need some wins to keep place in the playoff hunt. Hazleton will take on Penn State Wilkes-Barre in a double-header on Wednesday afternoon beginning at 2:30 p.m. at Hilldale park in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.