Schuylkill Haven, Pa. - Penn State University Athletic Conference play kicked off on Thursday as the Lady Lions took a pair of games from local rival Penn State Schuylkill. Hazleton hurlers tossed a pair of shut-outs on Thursday while the offense took care of business as the Lady Lions picked up a pair of road victories to start off conference play, both games ending in scores of 9-0 in five innings.
Overshadowing the Lady Lion pitching effort was sophomore Vanessa Michael's (Bloomsburg, Pa.) monster day at the plate. Michael crushed opposing pitching to the tune of 10 RBI on the afternoon and powered the Lady Lion offense in game one. The sophomore kicked off the day's scoring with a go-ahead two RBI double in the first inning of the game and doubled the Lady Lion's four run cushion with a grand slam in the second frame. Sophomore Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) would earn her second consecutive win from the circle with a stellar effort, allowing just four Schuyllkill hitters to reach base as the Lady Lions captured game one by the score of 9-0 in five innings.
Game two was dominated by the throwing efforts of freshman Mary Kate Penczkowski (Hanover, Pa.). The freshman mowed down eight of the final nine Schuyllkill batters to notch her second straight complete game shut-out. Penczkowski got help from the offense before ever taking the circle and once again, it was Michael inflicting the damage. Michael launched her second home run of the day, a three run shot in the first to give Hazleton the early edge that allowed Penczkowski to work with the lead. Hazleton would tack on a pair of runs in the fourth inning and put the game away with a four-run, fifth at-bat that featured a two run single from freshman shortstop Jerrika Chorba (Bloomsburg, Pa.). Penczkowski would retire the side in order in the bottom half of the fifth to close out the 9-0 win and send the Lady Lions home with the sweep.
Game 1: Penn State Hazleton 9, Penn State Schuylkill 0 (Final, 5 Innings)
Michael bested all hitters on the afternoon with her 3-for-4, seven RBI effort at the dish. Freshman Sarah Coolbaugh (Harding, Pa.) had a multi-hit game going 2-for-3 at the plate while Jerrika Chorba scored three times with a pair of hits in three trips to the box.
Varela picked up her third win of the season, throwing a five inning, complete game shutout. The sophomore allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out four Schuylkill hitters.
Schuylkill was led offensively by Haley Wolfe and Joelle Moyer who each collected one hit a piece in two trips to the plate. Makenna Rushannon added a 1-for-3 effort with a stolen base against the power pitching from Varela.
Cara Brennan was issued the loss in game one allowing nine runs on four walks and 11 hits from the Lady Lions.
Hazleton gets the first three batters aboard and Michael cleans up in her first plate appearance, smacking a two RBI double to plate Chorba and freshman Breann Fetterman (Mountain Top, Pa.). Freshmen Erin Schmick (Macungie, Pa.) and Kiana Lukoskie (Trevorton, Pa.) follow with productive ground outs to give Hazleton a 4-0 lead.
Michael takes advantage of a hit by pitch, infield error and a walk to Varela that loads the bases in front of her, cashing in all three runners along with herself on a grand slam home run. Michael's first bash of the season gives the Lady Lions a comfortable 8-0 lead heading into the bottom half of the inning.
Hazleton loads the bases for Michael for the third time in the game. The sophomore fails to produce yet another multi-RBI hit, but tacks on an insurance tally with a ground out to third base, pushing the score to its final at 9-0.
Game 2: Penn State Hazleton 9, Penn State Schuylkill 0 (Final, 5 Innings)
Seven Lady Lions collected nine hits in game two including Brean Fetterman who finished 2-for-3 with a runs scored and an RBI and Jerrika Chorba who went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Michael continued to pound the ball, capping her banner day with a 1-for-2 effort with two runs scored and three RBI.
Mary Kate Penczkowski dealt Schuylkill the shut-out loss, throwing five scoreless innings for the complete game win. The freshman allowed just one hit and two walks, striking out four hitters.
Sierra Salada earned Schuylkill's lone knock in game two, going 1-for-2 at the plate. CaraBrennan was tagged with her second loss on the day, allowing nine runs on nine hits and five free passes.
With one out and runners on first and second, Michael strolls to the plate, launching her second home run of the day to give Hazleton the early 3-0 advantage.
Sarah Coolbaugh notches a bases loaded RBI single with one out in the inning. Sophomore Shelby Jolliff (Dunkirk, Oh.) produces and second Hazleton score on a ground out to second base, putting the Lady Lions on top 5-0.
Jolliff comes up again with the bases loaded in the fifth frame and again produces a score for Hazleton via the productive out. With two away, Chorba and Fetterman go for back to back singles, plating three more Hazleton runs, capping a four run frame and expanding the Lady Lion cushion to 9-0.
Hazleton's two-day series with Penn State Wilkes-barre is postponed due to field conditions and impending rain on Friday. The Lady Lions will attempt to make up Friday's scheduled double-header with Wilkes-Barre on Monday, April 3 at the Drifton Softball Complex, beginning at 2:00 p.m.