Drums, Pa. - Hazleton returned to action after an 11 day hiatus to double their win total with a pair of victories over Clarks Summit University at the newly built Freedom Park Softball Complex. Hazleton cruised through game one with a dominant performance from senior Sam Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) and the squad dominated game two thanks in part to a robust 11-score inning to claim their second win of the day, improving their record to 4-5 in non-conference action.
Game One: Penn State Hazleton 9, Clarks Summit University 0 - Final 5 Innings
The Lady Lions claimed an early lead in this one and Varela held down the Defender offense until a big fourth inning that included Varela's second grand slam of the season put the game away for Hazleton.
With runners at second and third, a productive out plated Hazleton's first run of the game. A two-out single by freshman Jaclyn Hess (Bangor, Pa.) added a second tally to the board and a two-out double by freshman Caitlyn Ashelman (Macungie, Pa.) brought in Hess to give the Lady Lions a 3-0 cushion to start the game.
Hazleton would go scoreless through their next two at-bats but in the bottom half of the fourth, the Lions erupted for a six run frame. Two hits and a free pass would load the bases and with one out in the inning, Varela tagged her fourth home run of the season over the left field fence for the grand slam to put her squad up 7-0. Back to back singles kept the inning alive and with two out, sophomore Nicolette Kessler (Bangor, Pa.) made the Defenders pay, plating two runs on a single to left field, extended the Lions advantage to 9-0.
Varela's home run was impressive but she was equally strong from the circle. The senior gave up a single to the start the game but after that, Varela sat down the next seven straight hitters and faced the minimum through the second, third and fourth innings. A pair of walks in the top half of the fifth gave Clarks Summit their first runner in scoring position since the opening frame but Varela quickly shut the door, inducing a pair of ground outs to escape the inning unblemished and finalize the game via the mercy rule.
Eight Lady Lions picked up a combined 12 hits in the win including multi-hit efforts from sophomore Lexi Kessler (Bangor, Pa.) Varela, Hess and Ashelman who all registered two hits in the game. From the circle, Varela allowed just one hit in the complete game shut-out, striking out six with three walks.
Game 2: Penn State Hazleton 17, Clarks Summit University 0 - Final 5 Innings
The Hazleton offense was excellent in the day's first affair, but topped that effort in the nightcap. After pulling ahead 6-0 after two innings, The Lady Lions tacked on six hits in the third frame and took advantage of three Defender fielding errors to blow the game open with an 11 run inning. In almost a mirror image of game one, freshman Madison Clark (Emmaus, Pa.) gave up a single to Clarks Summit's lead off hitter and proceeded to dominate from the circle from that point on, exiting the game after four shutout innings to pick up her second win of the season.
Junior Jerrika Chorba (Bloomsburg, Pa.) led off the game with a double to right field after with two runners aboard, Varela struck for her second blast of the day to give Hazleton an quick 3-0 lead. Clarks Summit got the next two hitters but struggled to find the inning-ender, and in her first plate appearance of the day sophomore Mackenzie Joy made the Defenders pay with a line shot to left field, adding to the Hazleton cushion with a solo home run. Nicolette Kessler followed Joy's at-bat with a two-out double and scored on back to back wild pitches to cap Hazleton's 5 run first frame.
Hazleton added a run in the second frame and proceeded to lap the field in the third inning. Sophomore Danielle King (Reading, Pa.) sparked the big inning with an RBI single to left field and 13 batters later, the Lady Lions had plenty of insurance going forward. Lexi Kessler and Sam Varela picked up two RBI each in the 11-run third inning while Madison Clark drove in three runs with two of Hazleton's six hits in the frame. Clark tripled in her first at bat to score Varela from second base and later in the inning added a two RBI single with the bases loaded that put the Lions on top by the eventual final score of 17-0.
The trio of Kessler, Varela and Clark would account for five hits, six runs scored and 10 RBI in game two. Freshman Sky Esterly (Nazareth, Pa.) added a 2-for-2 effort at the plate with an RBI and a run scored while freshman McKayla Wildrick went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Clark tossed four shut-out innings of work from the circle to pick up her second win of the season, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out seven batters.
Next up: Hazleton is off until the weekend when they'll continue non-conference action with a road trip to Wilson College on Sunday, March 24. Game one of Sunday's double-header set to start at 1:00 p.m. in Chambersburg, Pa.