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Clovis' Root flirts with no-hitter

Clovis shortstop Jared Montoya cannot reach the throw as Levelland shortstop Bryan Ashley slides safely after stealing second base during the fourth inning of Tuesday’s second game of a doubleheader at Bell Park. Photo by Eric Kluth

First David Root lost his no-hitter. Then he lost his control.

But the Clovis right-hander regrouped in time to finish off a 3-1 win over Levelland, Texas, on Tuesday night in the opener of a West Texas Baseball League doubleheader at Bell Park.

Three outs away from a no-hitter, a Levelland player opened the top of the seventh with a solid single to right field off Root. The hit appeared to shake Root up as he hit three batters in the inning before getting the final out with the bases loaded.

Clovis (7-5) completed the sweep with a 9-4 victory in the second game, its fifth win in six games.

Root, who will be a senior at Clovis High in the fall, finished with a one-hitter, walking two and striking out five. He admitted he was disappointed when his no-hitter was broken up.

“I tried not to think about it, but it was in the back of my mind,” he said. “After they got that base knock, I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ It just got to me when I hit those guys.”

Up from the Wildcats’ junior varsity this spring, the right-hander has seen regular mound duty during the summer.

“David’s been throwing well,” coach Brian Cronk said. “In the summer, as long as you’re around the (strike) zone and you have more than one pitch, you have a good chance to win.”

The game was scoreless until Clovis plated three runs in the bottom of the fifth.

Matt Ulibarri hit a one-out triple to center, and Cade Wheeler walked and stole second. Jared Montoya followed with an RBI single to left and stole second, and Luke Gray delivered a two-run single to left.

Montoya led Clovis’ five-hit attack, going 2-for-2 with a walk.

Beyond the no-hitter and shutout, Root knew he had to keep pitching well in a tight game.

“I feel like I’m getting better, (pitching) with more control,” he said. “I was hoping not to let them hit the ball, but if they did that it would be at somebody.”

Cronk said Root’s M.O. is that “he throws real good for the first five or six innings and then he gets a little shaky.”

The Class 5A state runnerup Wildcats graduated virtually all their pitching this spring, so Root should have an opportunity.

“We’re looking for someone to step up,” Cronk said. “Right now, David’s doing what he needs to do to try to get a spot in the rotation.”

In the second game, Montoya finished off a perfect night (5-for-5) with a single, a double and a three-run triple, the latter helping break the game open in the bottom of the sixth.

Luke Gray got the win, surviving 10 walks in 4 1/3 innings, before Cody Wheeler finished up.