Late rally helps Hazleton to sweep Schuylkill

Kylee Sutton runs the ball in from second base.
Kylee Sutton runs the ball in from second base.

Drums, Pa. - The Lady Lions picked up a pair of wins over Penn State Schuylkill on Saturday, closing out the PSUAC regular season with a 10-2 record in the eastern division. Hazleton went back and forth with Schuylkill in game one until a big inning late in the game gave Hazleton all the cushion they would need to pull off the 11-3 win. The Lions carried that momentum into game two, shutting down the Schuylkill bats to sweep the season series with a 9-1 five inning victory.

Game One: Penn State Hazleont 11, Penn State Schuylkill 3 - Final/6 Innings

An unearned run left Hazleton trailing for the first two and one half innings of the crucial third game of the series but freshman hurler Madison Clark (Emmaus, Pa.) didn't let the game get away from the Lady Lions. Clark struck out the side twice in the first four innings of the game, allowing her squad to tie the game in the third and take the lead just one inning later. With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Hazleton strung three straight singles together, capped by an RBI single of the bat of senior Samantha Varela (Hazleton, Pa.) to claim a 2-1 lead. 

After struggling against Clark in their first four trips on offense, Schuylkill responded to retake the lead in the fifth inning. Schuylkill scored two runs on three hits and a walk and had runners at the corners with one out before Clark and the defense turned the corner. A ground out to the pitcher held the runner at third and Clark struck out the next batter to minimize the damage but the Lions now trailed 3-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth frame. 

Just as they did a day prior, the offense came to life late in the game. Hazleton reeled off six hits in the bottom half of the frame including multi-RBI hits from sophomore Kylee Sutton (Easton, Pa.), sophomore Lexi Kessler (Bangor, Pa.) and Maddy Clark. Three errors helped extend the inning for the Hazleton squad who added eight runs to their total to take a 10-2 advantage over Schuylkill. Clark mowed down three hitters in the top half of the sixth and just like that, Hazleton found themselves in position to end the game via the mercy rule. A lead-off double by freshman Jaclyn Hess (Bangor, Pa.) paved the way for the eight run rule to come into play, scoring one batter later on a throwing error by the Schuylkill infield. 

The top of the order came up big in this one, led by Hess who totaled three hits in five trips to the plate, scoring three runs in the win. Sam Varela finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored while Lexi Kessler and freshman Caitlyn Ashelman (Macungie, Pa.) both went 2-for-4 with two RBI. Maddy Clark was just as dominant from the circle as she was a day earlier, picking up the win while striking out 13 Schuylkill hitters. 

Game Two: Penn State Hazleton 9, Penn State Schuylkill 1

Hazleton rolled their success in game one into the final game of the series and this time took command early and never looked back. A productive gound-out by sophomore Nicolette Kessler (Bangor, Pa.) got the scoring started, leading to a two run advantage for Hazleton. The real damage in game two was done in Hazleton's next at-bat. The Lady Lions led off the frame with four straight singles including an RBI single from Caitlyn Ashelman, but a three run blast by sophomore Mackenzie Joy (Hazleton, Pa.) blew the game open. 

Nursing a 7-0 lead, Sam Varela continued to toss up zeros on the board as the pitcher of record. Varela retired nine straight Schuylkill hitters going back to the second inning, allowing just one hit from the circle before exiting the game after the fourth inning. A two run home run by Ashelman in the bottom half of the inning put the Lady Lions up 9-0 and although the squad allowed Schuylkill on the board in the fifth inning, Hazleton managed to turn a double-play to close out the game. 

Ashelman's home run wrapped up a monster series for the freshman. After going 3-for-3 in the finale, Ashelman totaled nine hits and 12 RBI against the conference rival. 

Next up: The Lady Lions will wait and see how the conference standings unfold but at a minimum have earned home field advantage in the play-in round of the post-season. Hazleton will continue to get work in as the season wounds down, hosting SUNY Delhi on Wednesday, April 17 at 3:00 p.m. in Drums, Pa.