Late rallies plague Hazleton at Brandywine

Jaclyn Hess ready for the pitch at first base.
Jaclyn Hess ready for the pitch at first base.

Media, Pa. - Hazleton carried leads into the late innings in both ends of Thursday's double-header at Penn State Brandywine but in each case, the home squad mounted rallies to snatch victory from the Lady Lions. Brandywine spoiled solid pitching efforts by freshman Madison Clark (Emmaus, Pa.) and senior Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.), notching half of their combined hits on the day in two key innings to pull out wins over Hazleton by scores of 7-4 and 2-1. 

Game One: Penn State Hazleton 4, Penn State Brandywine 7

Madison Clark was stellar early on for Hazleton. The freshman stranded three Brandywine runners in the first frame and except for a costly wild pitch in the second inning, shut down the Brandywine offense for five innings. Hazleton trailed Brandywine 1-0 and managed just two hits through their first four at bats before breaking out in their fifth trip on offense. A triple by junior Jerrika Chorba (Bloomsburg, Pa.) tied the game at 1-1 and singles by Varela, Clark and freshman Jaclyn Hess (Bangor, Pa.) extended Hazleton's advantage to 4-1. 

Everything seemed to be going Hazleton's way but all that would change in the sixth inning. An infield error put the lead off hitter on board and Brandywine followed with back to back hits, cutting Hazleton's cushion to 4-2. Hazleton went on to secure two outs without allowing any further damage, although the lead-off error would prove costly. With the bases loaded, Brandywine's Alexandra Szpindor singled to left to tie the game at 4-4 and third baseman Alyssa Sullivan followed with a go-ahead, three RBI home run over the left field fence. In just two batters, the Lady Lions lead evaporated, leaving Hazleton just three outs to score three runs and extend the game. Clark led off the top of the seventh frame with a double but Brandywine retired the next two Hazleton hitters, ending the game on a double-play. 

Eight Lady Lions combined for nine hits in game one, however five of those knocks came in Hazleton's four-run fifth frame. Clark led Hazleton with a 2-for-4 effort at the plate and picked up the loss in the circle thanks to the lopsided sixth frame from the Brandywine offense. Clark tossed all six innings of work for the Lions, allowing just one earned run while stiking out five batters to earn the tough luck loss. 

Game Two: Penn State Hazleton 1, Penn State Brandywine 2

A pitcher's duel broke out in game two although Hazleton nabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The Lions strung together two straight hits to lead off the frame and with runners at the corners and no outs in the frame, Caitlyn Ashelman (Macungie, Pa.) drove in the go ahead run for Hazleton with a productive ground ball out to the pitcher. That lone run would hold up through six innings of action thanks to a dominant performance from the circle by Sam Varela. 

Varela and the Hazleton defense allowed just five total base runners through six innings and Hazleton nearly broke the game open in the top half of the seventh inning. The Lions loaded the bases without committing an out but failed to push home an insurance run as Brandywine retired the next three hitters. That change in momentum carried over to Brandywine's final plate appearance and the home squad got the lead-off hitter on base safely in the bottom half of the seventh. After registering just two hits all game off Varela, Brandywine struck for three knocks in their final at bat which was all they would need to walk off the field with a win. Varela induced a ground ball out but a single and stolen base by the third batter of the inning put two runners in scoring position with just one away in the inning. A base knock by Haley Grossi was all it took to break up the shut-out, scoring the tying and game winning runs in the process. 

Hazleton out-hit Brandywine 8-5 in the loss led by Jaclyn Hess and freshman Cassandra Passamonte (Bushkill, Pa.) who combined for five of the eight Hazleton knocks. Hess finished 3-for-3 with a run scored while Passamonte went 2-for-3 at the dish. Like Clark in game one, Varela was strapped with the loss despite deserving better. The senior allowed five hits and two walks while striking out eight batters in 6.1 innings pitched. 

Next up: Hazleton will look to even the score when the series moves back to the northeast this weekend. Brandywine will travel to Drums, Pa. on Saturday, April 6 to complete 2019 regular season matchup with game one getting underway at Freedom Park at 1:00 p.m.