Hazleton sweep capped by Esterly walk-off

Sky Esterly at the plate.
Sky Esterly at the plate.

Drums, Pa. - Hazleton added a couple of wins to their resume on Tuesday afternoon, knocking off Penn State Schuylkill in a pair of one-run ball games. The Nittany Lions triumphed behind their pitching and defense all day long, adding timely hitting to secure the wins by scores of 2-1 in game one and 3-2 in the second outing. 

Game one: Penn State Schuylkill 1, Penn State Hazleton 2 (Final, 7 Innings)

A lead off walk lead to the first and only Schuylkill run of game one. With two outs and a runner in scoring position, Schuylkill's Alyssa Gerber ripped a clutch line drive up the middle to give the visitors the advantage but Hazleton junior Cassidy Lentz (Germansville, Pa.) settled in nicely in the circle after the early tally. Fortunately for the Lions, they wouldn't trail for long. A double by freshman Rebecca Baum (Stewartstown, Pa.) gave Hazleton a scoring opportunity, one they would take advantage of with their own two-out hit courtesy of senior Mackenzie Joy (Hazleton, Pa.) who tied the game at 1-1 with a single to right field that scored Baum. 

Baum delivered once again in the top half of the second inning as Schuylkill threatened to reclaim the lead. With two on and one out, the rookie right fielder corraled a base hit off the bat of Schuylkill's Makena Wong and fired a strike from the outfield to throw out the runner at home. Two batters later, Baum battled the wind to secure the final out of inning and help Lentz strand three Schuylkill runners and keep the game knotted at one run each. 

Hazleton manufactured the go-ahead score in the bottom half of the second inning without getting a hit. Cassidy Lentz led off the frame with a free pass, moving up to third base on a wild pitch and a productive groundout. One batter later, Lentz slid in safely at the plate on a ball that got away from the catcher, giving Hazleton the eventual game winning score. 

Lentz retired 12 of the next 15 hitters she faced, cruising to the final frame with a 2-1 cushion over Schuylkill. The visitors threatened to tie game in the final inning after an error and a wild pitch put the equalizing run in scoring positon, but Lentz battled back to induce two infield outs to close the door on game one. 

Top Performers

Schuylkill and Hazleton combined for just nine total hits in game one with pitchers from both sides shutting down the offenses. Sierra Santarsiero tossed six innings of four-hit softball, allowing one earned run on four hits and a walk while striking out seven Nittany Lions. After the first two innings, Lentz tossed a gem for Hazleton to earn the victory. After allowing three hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch in the first two frames, the junior threw five innings of relatively stress free ball to close out the win. Lentz finished the game with one run allowed on five hits and three walks, with the three strikeouts in the complete game effort. 

Game Two: Penn State Schuylkill 2, Penn State Hazleton 3 (Final, 7 Innings)

Hazleton lept ahead early with a three-hit inning in the bottom half of the first to take a 2-0 advantage over Schuylkill in game two. Junior Sky Esterly (Nazareth, Pa.) led off the frame with a single and a stolen base and came around quickly to score the game's first run after Baum followed in the two spot with a triple to left field. Two batters later, junior Sadie Heiney (Palmerton, Pa.) connected with a clutch two-out flare down the right field line to plate Baum, putting Hazleton up 2-0. 

The score would remain at 2-0 through the next four innings as both teams failed to lock in at the plate. After the first inning, Santarsiero was back to form in the circle for Schuylkill and allowed just one hit from the second inning through the sixth frame, posting all zeros for Hazleton over that stretch. Likewise for Hazleton, Rebecca Baum mowed through the competition retiring the first nine batters she faced and tossed a shutout through the first five innings of action. 

Things would heat up in the top half of the sixth however as Schuylkill got runners at the corners to lead off the inning. A sacrifice bunt by Gerber tallied Schuylkill's first run and a an error by Baum in the circle gave Schuylkill runners at first and third, setting up a crucial play in the game. With one away in the inning, Schuylkill's Alyssa Youst took off for second base, but was thrown out by freshman catcher Linsey Fisk (Millville, Pa.) for the second out of the inning. Ashley Pentz would scoring the tying run on the play, but Fisk cut down the potential go ahead score, clearing the bases with two outs and helping the Nittany Lions avoid a big inning for the visitors. 

The score remained tied at 2-2 heading into the seventh frame and despite getting a runner in scoring position, Schuylkill failed to come up with a two-out hit to take the lead. Hazleton came to bat and got a lead-off infield single by sophomore Jayla Irvin (Bethlehem, Pa.) who advanced to scoring position on a one-out sacrifice bunt. With two outs in the inning, Sky Esterly came to the plate and after working the count for several pitches, Esterly connected for a towering shot to left field to cash in Irvin and walk off with a 3-2 win in the Nittany Lions favor. 

Top Performers:

Mekena Wong registered a mult-hit game for Schuylkill going 2-for-3 with a run scored while teammate Sierra Santarsiero, in her second outing of the day delivered another excellent outing from the circle. In six and two thirds innings, Santarsiero allowed three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out five Hazleton hitters. 

Five Nittany Lions combined for six hits in game two, led by Esterly who finished 2-for-4 including the game winning RBI triple. Rebecca Baum secured her second win of the season, tossing all seven frames for Hazleton. Baum allowed one earned run on five hits and a walk, striking out a season high nine hitters for the victory. 

Next up: Hazleton and Schuylkill are set for a rematch on Friday, when the Nittany Lions will travel for their first road games of the season. Friday's double-header is slated for a 2:30 p.m. start at Island Park in Schuylkill Haven, Pa. Stay tuned for weather updates with rain and cold moving into the area late this week.