The Liberty and Las Vegas baseball teams had the same number of chances to hit with runners in scoring position on Tuesday.
Only the host Patriots were able to come through in the clutch, however.
No. 7 Liberty scored four times in the third inning and wriggled out of a handful of jams in a 6-3 victory over Las Vegas that kept the Patriots in first place in the Northeast League.
“We made the plays on defense when they had guys in scoring position,” Liberty coach Garrett Kohler said, “and when we got guys in position, we scored them, which is what we haven’t been getting. That’s how we’ve got to play.”
Nick Woolery delivered the big blow in the third with a three-run double to left-center field that gave the Patriots (16-8, 5-0 Northeast) a 5-0 lead and chased Las Vegas starter Diego Delgado.
Preston Pavlica went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, and Jacob Klein also had two hits for Liberty, which was 4-for-9 with six RBIs and a sacrifice fly with runners in scoring position.
In contrast, Las Vegas was 1-for-10 in that situation and left seven runners on base. The Wildcats’ only hit with runners in scoring position was a two-run single by Eddie Ojeda in the fifth that cut Liberty’s lead to 5-3.
Ed O’Bannon relieved Liberty starter Bailey Daguio after Ojeda’s hit and got a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat. He needed only four pitches to retire the Wildcats in order in the sixth before allowing one-out singles to Julio Seperich and Jaime Solis in the seventh.
Klein earned the save for Liberty, striking out Hector Perez and getting a game-ending fielder’s choice by Ojeda.
On a blustery day with the wind blowing out, Liberty’s three pitchers got 12 of the 21 outs via ground balls and recorded only one fly-ball out, a pop to second base to end the sixth.
“This field, we had a game earlier when the wind was blowing out where we hit six homers. We know balls can fly out of here,” Kohler said. “We preach to our pitchers to work fast and live down. We want ground balls. Our pitchers threw the ball down, and that’s what we get.”
Daguio escaped unscathed in the third inning when the Wildcats put runners on second and third with one out, and he allowed only one run on a passed ball after Las Vegas had second and third with one out in the fourth.
Seperich went 3-for-3 with a run for Las Vegas (13-10, 3-3).
“All our pitchers did a good job,” Kohler said. “We prevented them from getting the big hit when they needed it.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.