LOWER BURRELL, Pa. - Penn State Fayette softball (11-13, 7-5 PSUAC) split with Penn State New Kensington in a Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference doubleheader on Thursday afternoon, knocking their opponents from a tie for first and setting up a showdown with Penn State Hazleton this weekend for the final spot in the playoffs.
The Roaring Lions took game one, 2-1, in nine innings as freshman Moriah Kromer (Mount Pleasant, Pa.) struck out six and scattered seven hits in a complete game performance. New Kensington bounced back to take game two, 4-0. The split knocked New Kensington from a tie for first place with Penn State Beaver and Penn State Mont Alto, and sets up the Roaring Lions for a must-win situation at Penn State Hazleton on Saturday afternoon.
Fayette currently sits one game behind the 8-6 Hazleton squad, who has two games against Penn State Beaver on Friday, April 20, a day before they host Fayette. Fayette then travels to Penn State Scranton on Sunday to wrap up their regular season.
GAME ONE--Penn State Fayette--2, Penn State New Kensington--1 (9 innings)
The teams combined for 13 hits over nine innings in the pitcher's duel in game one. Kromer was outstanding in game one, giving up one run on seven hits while going a career-high nine innings.
New Kensington used two pitchers to get through the game, but were equally impressive, combining to give up two runs on six hits.
Scoreless after two, Fayette grabbed the lead the in the top of the third. Following a Kromer walk to lead-off the inning, freshman Jessica Stairs (Mount Pleasant, Pa.) singled and sophomore Stephanie Longo (Point Marion, Pa.) flew out, but Kromer advanced to third. Freshman Stacey Riggar (Uniontown, Pa.) then singled home the games first run, knocking in Kromer before New Kensington shut down the Fayette threat.
New Kensington answered in the home half of the third, starting the inning with two singles. A sacrifice bunt advanced the runners one base each, and Kromer struck out the next batter. Before the Roaring Lions could escape the jam, a passed ball led to New Kensington's only run of the game, tying the score at 1-1.
Neither team would truly threaten again, as only one runner for either team advanced passed second base through the eighth inning. Longo reached third in the fifth for the Roaring Lions, but the two-out rally for Fayette would fall short, leading to extra innings.
Sophomore Paige McWilliams (Connellsville, Pa.) was placed on second base (college extra innings rule) to start the ninth, and freshman Kaytee Cumberland (Leisenring, Pa.) reached on an error, advancing McWilliams to third. Sophomore Samantha Virgillo (Connellsville, Pa.) followed with the go-ahead RBI on a groundout, giving Fayette a 2-1 advantage.
Kromer then escaped the New Kensington threat with runners on second and third, forcing a groundout to give Fayette the extra innings win.
McWilliams and Riggar each had two hits for Fayette, and Kromer finished 1-for-3 with two walks and a run scored.
GAME TWO--Penn State New Kensington--4, Penn State Fayette--0
New Kensington bounced back in game two, shutting down the Roaring Lions offense, scattering seven hits over seven innings.
The Lions pushed across a run in the second off of Stairs, who finished with 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits, while striking out five and walking four. New Kensington then took advantage of some wildness from the starting pitcher, plating two runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Two walks sandwiched a strikeout, but a single loaded the bases for New Kensington. Another single made the score 2-0, and a bases loaded walk chased Stairs from the game with a 3-0 deficit. Kromer escaped the one-out, bases loaded jam, forcing a double play pop-out, as Riggar caught the runner at third too far off the base.
New Kensington would manage another run in the bottom of the sixth for a 4-0 lead, and Fayette could only advance one runner to third through the first six innings, but threatened in the seventh. With two outs, Kromer singled and Stairs doubled to give Fayette runners at second and third, but a pop-out ended the threat.
Kromer finished 3-for-4 with three singles, while freshman Shelby Dziak (Eighty Four, Pa.) added two singles.
Fayette returns to the diamond on Saturday at Penn State Hazleton for a 2:00 p.m. start before finishing the regular season at Scranton on Sunday. If Hazleton sweeps Beaver, the Roaring Lions will need sweeps of Hazleton and Scranton to make the playoffs. If Hazleton splits with Beaver, Fayette must sweep Hazleton and take at least one game at Scranton to advance. If Hazleton is swept by Beaver, the Roaring Lions must win three of four over the weekend to win the tiebreaker with Hazleton.