Hazleton sweeps Schuylkill in two-game home stand

Jess Lepore makes a throw to first base.
Jess Lepore makes a throw to first base.

Drums, Pa. - Pitching, defense and timely hitting proved to be the winning recipe on Tuesday for the Hazleton Nittany Lion softball squad who took home a pair of wins against Penn State Schuylkill in their final meeting of the regular season. Junior Cassidy Lentz (Germansville, Pa.) tossed a two-hit shut out to start the day off right in a 3-0 victory for the Lions followed by a offensive battle in game two where Hazleton came out with an 8-4 win. 

Game One: Penn State Schuylkill 0, Penn State Hazleton 3 (Final, 7 Innings)

The Lions got three of their six hits in the first inning of game one. Singles by freshman Jess Lepore (Telford, Pa.) and junior Sky Esterly (Nazareth, Pa.) left runners at the corners with no outs and some early pressure for the visiting squad. A swipe of second base by Esterly set the stage for junior Sadie Heiney (Palmerton, Pa.) who delivered a line drive to center field, plating both runs to give Hazleton a 2-0 cushion. Hazleton would maintain their advantage over the next three innings until the Lions got another lift against the hard throwing left-hander, Santarsiero from Schuylkill. Leading off the fourth frame, freshman Linsey Fisk (Millville, Pa.) blasted her third home run of the season, a towering fly ball to left center field to put Hazleton up 3-0. 

From the circle, Lentz was dealing from the start. Despite a few early walks and some hard hit balls by the Schuylkill offense, the junior mowed through hitters with great efficiency. Lentz had her no-hit bid broken up in the fourth inning and nearly lost the shut-out in the fifth frame, but freshman Natalee West (Nicholson, Pa.) came up with a home run robbing catch in center to preserve 3-0 lead for Hazleton. Lentz surrendered her second hit of the game in the seventh inning, but promptly induced two fly outs to end the game, picking up her sixth win of the season in the process. 

Top Performers: Lentz struck out seven batters in the win for Hazleton, allowing zero runs on two hits with four walks. Offensively, Hazleton mustered six hits, all of which were registered by different hitters in the Lion's order. Heiney led the offense going 1-for-3 with two RBI while Fisk added an RBI on the solo bomb, finishing the game 1-for-3 herself. 

Game Two: Penn State Schuylkill 4, Penn State Hazleton 8 (Final, 7 Innings)

There was no lack of offense in game two as both teams combined for 23 hits in the second end of the double-header. Once again though, Hazleton jumped out to a fast start, tacking on three runs in the first at bat, thanks to four consecutive hits from the top half of the order. Freshman Rebecca Baum (Sterwartstown, Pa.) led off the rally with a double to left, followed by single through the middle by Heiney. Senior Mackenzie Joy (Hazleton, Pa.) singled to score Baum from third and Linsey Fisk cleaned up the bases with a line drive double to left field to cap the scoring at 3-0. 

Hazleton continued to rake in the offense getting three hits and three additional runs over their next two at bats. In the second frame, a one-out double by sophomore Sara Lamana (Allentown, Pa.) led to sac fly RBI by Rebecca Baum and Hazleton took advantage of a Schuylkill error leading to a two-out RBI single off the bat of Sadie Heiney. In the bottom of the third, Hazleton got runners at the corners with one away, allowing junior McKayla Wildrick (Germansville, Pa.) to produce Hazleton's sixth unanswered run with a productive ground ball out. 

Hazleton remained stout on defense, allowing Baum to weave her way out of trouble in early in the game. Baum allowed five hits to Schuylkill hitters in the first four innings of play but managed to post zeros on the score board stranding five runners over that stretch including a bases loaded jam in the second inning. Schuylkill broke the scoring drought with a two-out RBI knock in the fifth inning but Hazleton responded with four hits in the bottom half of the inning. Once again it was Lamana producing with the bat, lofting a single over the infield to plate two additional scores and increase Hazleton's lead to 8-1 after five. 

Schuylkill got a rally going in the sixth inning, taking advantage of two Hazleton errors in the infield. One run would score directly on an error and another coming in on a wild pitch to the fourth hitter of the inning. The Lions reset to get two outs in the frame, but back to back hits by Schuylkill led to a third score, shrinking the Hazleton advantage to 8-4. Trailing by four in their final at bat, Schuylkill led off the seventh inning with a pair of hits that got the tying run to the on deck circle, but Baum recovered once again, getting two pop ups and fly ball to retire the side close out the win. 

Top Performers: Schuylkill's Ashley Pentz proved to be an impossible out in game two, going 4-for-4 with an RBI to lead all hitters in the second game. Hazleton was led by Lamana who finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. Sophomore Jayla Irvin (Bethlehem, Pa.) added a 2-for-3 effort at the dish as did Heiney and Baum who ended their afternoons in similar fashion with an RBI and a run scored to their credit. From the circle, Baum allowed one earned run on 11 hits while fanning one batter in her sixth win of the year. 

Next up: Hazleton wraps up the regular season with a home/away series with Penn State Brandywine. The Lions travel to the Maple Zone Sports Complex on Friday for a double-header in Aston, Pa. beginning at 3:00 p.m.