Justin Root was doing a bit of a high-wire act on the mound Wednesday as he nursed a one-run lead. Tense as it might have been, he knew his Lee’s Summit North teammates usually delivered a strong finish.
And they didn’t let him down.
North rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh, which proved to be more than enough to secure Root and the Broncos a 4-0 victory over Summit Christian Academy on the third day of the Eastern Jackson County Baseball Tournament at Legacy Park.
Root, a senior right-hander, held SCA’s usually potent offense to three hits and a walk while striking out three. But on a day with a 25-mph wind gusting across the field, North was finding runs and baserunners scarce, too.
Until the seventh inning.
“For some strange reason we usually have our peak in the seventh inning,” Root said. “We score a lot of runs in the seventh and we’ve done that the past couple of games. I don’t know what the reason is for that, it just happens to be that way.”
SCA starter Matthew McWilliams had been equally effective in keeping North in check until the seventh when Sean Johnson singled, Brandon Hirsch walked and Jason Gonzalez rolled a bunt to load the bases. After Jeremy Root reached on a fielder’s choice that erased Johnson, Cade Ragland stroked a single to left that scored Hirsch and Gonzalez. Root then stole home for the third run.
“The last several games the seventh inning has kind of been our inning,” North coach Mike Westacott said. “The guys were finally able to string some hits together and Cade is unflappable. He’s not the kind of kid who’s going to hit the ball over the wall or do something absolutely amazing, but he’s going to have a quality at-bat and do something to help the team.”
Root figured the best way to help the team on the windy day was by pitching to contact – letting SCA hit the ball and relying on his defense. It also worked for McWilliams, who also gave up only three hits and a walk.
North didn’t need hit to take a 1-0 lead in the second. Gonzalez reached on an error with two out, and advanced to third when Jeremy Root reached when McWilliams could field a ball hit back to him.
Root appeared caught in a rundown when Gonzalez broke from third. The throw to the plate came too late, and both were safe.
“We work on those first and third situations every week in practice to the point the guys get a little tired of working on it,” Westacott said. “We’ve got to figure out ways to get runs across when we’re not putting quality balls in play.”
That wasn’t a problem for North Tuesday when it routed Truman 20-4 in five innings in its second tournament game. Gonzalez had five of the Broncos’ 19 hits, and Gunnar Gronberg held the Patriots to four hits with eight strikeouts. The Broncos had a three-game winning streak before Thursday’s final games and improved their record to 10-10 after struggling early in the season.
“I’d like to feel like we’re going to start to get it going,” Westacott said. “We feel like we’re starting to hit our stride and hopefully we can start playing our best baseball as the season comes to a close.”
SCA, 15-3, bounced back to beat St. Joseph Central 5-1 in its second game Wednesday. McWilliams drove in three runs with a triple in the third inning, and Brady Garmon and Will Finch both had two hits and scored two runs for the Eagles. Clayton Medlin picked up the win by holding Central to four hits over 6 2/3 innings. SCA, which beat Blue Springs South 7-4 on Tuesday, was 3-1 in tourney play.