Liberty’s Jacob Klein didn’t have his best pitching outing last week in a nonconference game with Bishop Gorman, so the junior right-hander was champing at the bit to get back on the mound.
He certainly got some validation on Monday against rival Silverado.
Klein gave up just one hit over six shutout innings, and the Patriots hung on for a 4-1 home win over the Skyhawks to lock up the Northeast League’s top seed for next week’s Sunrise Region playoffs.
Silverado (19-8, 5-2) will host Las Vegas (15-12, 4-3) on Wednesday to determine the No. 2 seed.
“We knew going into this game, this was probably our biggest game of the year,” Liberty coach Garrett Kohler said. “We want that No. 1 seed. More than anything, we want to be able to hang up a banner, saying we’re division champs. … We put (Jacob) on the mound because we felt like he could go out there and shut anybody out. He’s been one of our best pitchers this year.”
Klein, who gave up nine runs on seven hits in one inning Friday against Gorman, returned with a vengeance Monday, finishing with five strikeouts and three walks for the Patriots (18-9, 7-0).
He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Dillon Johnson’s one-out single.
“He started that Gorman game and the plan all along was for him to go one inning,” Kohler said. “It was rough, but we still had total confidence in him. I’m not shocked at all by today. We want all of our pitchers to step up in a big game like this. This is what we’ve been preparing them for.”
Liberty’s offense came through in the third inning with support.
Brandon Soratos, who singled to lead off the inning, advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch by Jordan Thomson to set up Jonny Gilleres’ RBI single.
The Patriots then added three runs in the fifth inning to give Klein plenty of breathing room.
Trevor Mullaney hit a stand-up double before coming home on an RBI single to right field by Nick Rush to make it 2-0. Gilleres, who finished 2-for-3 with a run and three RBIs, followed with a two-run homer to right-center to put the Patriots up 4-0.
“Little guy, but he’s got some pop,” Kohler said. “He’s a dynamic player with speed and power. We put him in spots where we hope they throw him a fastball. He’s got the swing to take one out.”
Silverado fought back in the seventh inning on an RBI single by Johnson, but left the bases loaded to end the game.
Johnson went 2-for-4 with an RBI to lead Silverado.
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.