Lee’s Summit North pitcher Justin Root already felt like it was going to be a good day before he took to the mound Tuesday to face Lee’s Summit. Getting some early runs to work with made him feel even better.
Root tossed a complete-game shutout, settling in after his offense scored four runs over the first two innings in leading North to a 6-0 victory in a Suburban Gold Conference game on the Broncos’ home field. A senior right-hander, Root held the Tigers to five hits and no walks with six strikeouts, and he helped his cause by scoring two runs on two hits.
“I was feeling pretty good today,” Root said. “I had a good pregame. I was feeling good in my warmups so I think that helped out with my confidence going out there.”
Root grew more confident after North scored two runs in the first inning and two more in the second when Lee’s Summit starter Dalton Hill struggled to throw strikes. Hill appeared to be out of trouble in the first inning when Zavian Hill robbed Hayden Bradford of a base hit with a diving catch in right field to start the game and Oscar Medrano was picked off first base after drawing a walk.
Root followed with a double, and Hill walked the next two batters before giving up a two-run single to Jason Gonzalez. When Hill gave up two more walks to start the second inning, Lee’s Summit coach Jim Mellody replaced him with Joe Vandenboos.
“You don’t have it every day,” Mellody said. “Sometimes you can fight through it, and sometimes you just don’t have it. Dalton knew it and I knew it, so we had to make a move early.”
North turned the two walks into two more runs when Root was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Sean Johnson hit a sacrifice fly to left field. Root had a comfortable lead to work with, and the Broncos continued a recent trend of getting on the scoreboard early.
“We’ve done a pretty good job this year getting out to early leads,” North coach Mike Westacott said. “We were able to put some hits together when we needed them when they gave us some base runners. We were just focused and I thought we came ready to play today.”
Root was dialed in early and never wavered even when the Tigers scratched out base runners. He worked around a leadoff double by Dalton Hill and a single by Ben Lock in the second inning, and eased out of another jam after Zavian Hill led off the fourth with a single and Lock reached on an error.
“He’s been the man for us this year,” Westacott said. “He’s a guy that we know has a lot of experience and is pretty unflappable no matter what situation we put him in.”
Vandenboos helped Lee’s Summit stay close by striking out five with no walks over four innings, and he retired eight straight until the Broncos struck for two more runs in the fifth. Root singled and Johnson was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and they scored on a single by Gonzalez and a sacrifice fly by Tanner Yeisley.
That was more than enough to ensure a big conference win for North, which has won eight of its last 10 games to improve to 14-11 overall and take over the conference lead at 6-3. Lee’s Summit is second to the Broncos in the league at 5-3 and 14-7 overall.
“I still feel like we’ve got some things we can work on and play better baseball than what we’ve played,” Westacott said. “But we’re certainly headed in the right direction and hopefully we can continue that.”