By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Jake Lacek looked no different in the seventh inning than he did the rest of the game. But when first baseman Dylan Keel caught the ball to complete a game-ending double play, Lacek’s reaction proved he knew exactly what was going on.
“That’s a no-hitter!” Lacek exclaimed, giving a high-five to Liberty head coach J.J. Tabor after his 1-0 win over PikeView Tuesday in Glen Daniel.
Lacek, who threw 91 pitches, faced only two batters over the minimum. He struck out five, walked two and hit a batter, but got help from his defense throughout the game.
As the team congratulated Lacek, someone had to tell his big brother, Joey, what had happened.
“It was?” Joey said. “Hey, my brother pitched a no-hitter!”
Jake now has one up on his brother. Joey, who has signed to play at Concord, has never thrown a no-hitter.
“No, I’m not much of a pitcher,” Joey said, smiling. “I had no idea. He pitched a heck of a game. I’m happy for him. He’s only a sophomore, so that is a big accomplishment for him. Hopefully there are many more big things to come. Being his big brother, I was elated for him. It’s really exciting.”
Jake wasn’t aware of the situation until Tabor actually told him before he took the mound for the seventh.
“No, not at all,” Jake said when asked if he felt pressure after Tabor spilled the beans. “I just went crazy after I threw it. (I threw) my fastball for strikes, and they were fouling off a lot, giving me more strikes. So that was working.”
“He’s always had good stuff, but I thought he did a good job of pitching today,” Tabor said. “He’s prone to give up an 0-2 hit or something. He just has a lack of concentration sometimes. But today he didn’t do that. He really changed the batters’ eye level and really made pitches and did a good job. Every time he needed a big pitch, he made it.”
Lacek also got plenty of help from his defense, turning potentially long innings into quick ones.
He needed 22 pitches to get out of a perfect first inning, and the second started like it would be a struggle when he brushed Kevin Cottle’s jersey with the first pitch. But Zach Meadows hit into a double play and Jon Clark grounded out to end the inning on pitch No. 5.
Austin Cordell walked for PikeView in the fourth but was caught stealing.
In the fifth, Lacek got help from his brother in the field and at the plate.
The Panthers’ hardest hit ball came from Meadows, who drilled a line drive to Joey Lacek in center field. Lacek appeared to move in on the ball, then had to leap to make the catch, preserving Jake’s no-hitter.
In the bottom half, Joey’s two-out double to left-center scored Dakota Boulet from first for the only run of the game.
“I wasn’t seeing the ball real well in the outfield, but I was seeing the ball well at the plate,” Joey said. “The baseball gods were out there with me today. I was blessed to hit the ball like I did today.”
“We’re struggling at the plate right now, and then for Jake to come in and locating the ball — he dictated the whole game,” PikeView coach Josh Wyatt said. “I felt like we weren’t aggressive enough early in the count and let him get in counts where he could hit his spots. He kept us off-balance.”
In the seventh, Cordell grounded out on a close play at first before Cottle walked. Meadows then grounded into his second double play to end it.
“The defense played good tonight,” Jake Lacek said.
It took Lacek’s gem for the struggling Raiders to find a positive. After starting the season 17-1, Liberty has lost three of its last five.
A team that had been averaging more than 10 runs per game has scored just nine in its last 26 innings. They have lost by the mercy rule twice and have had three games in which they scored one run.
“We’ve had a stretch where we haven’t been hitting like we did for the first (18) games,” Tabor said. “That’s what you’ve got to do. If you’re not going to hit, you have to win games with your gloves and on the hill. We were able to beat a really good team that is well coached with pitching and defense.”
Lacek made sure one run was good enough this time around.
NOTES: The game took only 1 hour, 27 minutes to complete ... Liberty will host Mount View at 5 p.m. today ... PikeView will visit Wyoming East at 5:30 p.m. PikeView won the teams’ last game 4-3, but it was the defending Class AA state champions’ only loss in their last 17 games.
— E-mail: gfauber
Liberty 1, PikeView 0
PV: 000 000 0 — 0 0 3
L: 000 010 x — 1 6 2
PV: Austin Cordell and Hunter Moses, L: Jake Lacek and Trevor Quarles. WP — Lacek. LP — Cordell. Hitting — L: Joey Lacek 3-3 (2 2b, rbi), Dakota Boulet 2-3, Seth Prince 1-3.
Records: PV: 17-8; L: 19-4.