Late rally spoiled by Luzerne walk off double

Nick Vital warms up in between innings.
Nick Vital warms up in between innings.

Nanticoke, Pa. - Hazleton was back on the field on Tuesday afternoon for a non-conference game at Luzerne County Community College. The Lions trailed late until a four run surge by Hazleton gave them a one run edge needing just three outs to secure the win. All that effort would be null and void as Luzerne mounted a ninth inning rally of their own ending in a two-run, walk-off double to pull off a 12-11 win over Hazleton. 

Hazleton got on the board first but the Trailblazers limited the Lions to just two hits through the first six innings of play. Over that stretch, Luzerne piled on seven runs to take a 7-3 advantage heading into the late innings. That's when things got interesting as the Lions finally began to make headway on the scoreboard.

Singles by senior Charles Karchner (West Hazleton, Pa.) and freshman Wyatt Kindler (Mountain Top, Pa.) paved the way for sophomore Colin Stauffer to cash in the first score of the seventh inning for Hazleton. Stuaffer doubled off the fence in right field leaving two runners in scoring position and just one away in the frame. The Lions went hitless for the remainder of the inning but took advantage of a fielder's choice and a Trailblazer error to notch three runs and get within one score of Luzerne. 

Just as soon as Hazleton crept back into the game, Luzerne pulled back out in front by four runs, tallying three scores of their own in the bottom half of the seventh. With a steep hill to climb, Hazleton answered with a single score in the eighth inning but perhaps more importantly, the Lions kept Luzerne off the board in their next to last at-bat giving the squad an opportunity to extend the game. 

With the lead-off hitter grounding out, the final at-bat strarted slow until an infield single and a walk brought the tying run to the plate. Over their next two at-bats, Hazleton converted scores courtesy of Trailblazer errors and with two outs and runners at second and third base Kindler strode to the plate. The wiry outfield smoked a ball to left field, scoring the tying and go-ahead run, putting Hazleton on top 11-10, just three outs away from a huge comeback win. 

Hazleton's jubilation would wind up being short-lived however as Luzerne battled back to get their lead-off hitter aboard, sacrificing the next hitter to put the tying run in scoring position. A walk and a passed ball led to trouble, trouble which was multiplied by a stolen base leaving the winning run 180 feet from scoring. Looking to stop the Trailblazer's in their tracks, the Lions turned to Stuaffer to shut the door but Stuaffer outing would be a quick one. Luzerne's next batter found a way to barrel up the hard throwing Stauffer, lining a ball over the bag at first and down the line. Both runners scored easily to end the ballgame 12-11 in favor of the Trailblazers.

A number of Nittany Lions finished with big days on Tuesday including four players who registered multi-hit afternoons. Charlie Karchner went 2-for-4 with three runs scored while freshman Jacob Taschler totaled one hit in four trips to the plate with four runs scored. Driving in the majority of Hazleton's scores were Kindler who went 2-for-6 with two RBI, Stauffer with two hits and three RBI and sophomore Brett Kosciolek (Tamaqua, Pa.) who went 2-for-5 with three RBI. 

Next up: Hazleton returns to PSUAC action on Friday for a crucial series with Penn State Schuylkill. Hazleton will square off with their local rival at Big Vision in Leesport, Pa. at 2:30 p.m.