FARMINGTON — Lance Lee's performance on the mound gave Strike Zone the exact start it was looking for to open the Connie Mack City Tournament.
Lee threw a one-hit shutout in the 6-0 victory against a solid Naa'taanii team to help Strike Zone advance in the bracket on Tuesday at Ricketts Park.
"It's big for our momentum," said Lee, who struck out six in seven innings. "Every time I've pitched, we've done good."
Strike Zone head coach Adam Morrissey said Lee has been his team's ace all summer, and he wasn't surprised by the strong outing from the 2014 Farmington High graduate.
"He's thrown great. Every time we've needed a big win, he's stepped up," Morrissey said. "We went with him and thought it was a good matchup."
The first round contest pitted two of the top three teams in the league against each other after a blind draw on Monday determined the bracket.
Morrissey's team dropped a game to Naa'taanii early in the tournament a season ago, and he said it was important to come out ready to play from the opening pitch.
"Drawing them first ups the ante a little bit. We've been preparing for this, and we were ready to go," he said.
Strike Zone struck first with a pair of runs to open the game.
Connor Calvert and Lee recorded RBIs in the bottom of the first inning, driving in Matthew Knickerbocker and Austin Davis to give Strike Zone the 2-0 lead.
"As soon as I had the lead, I was able to settle in," said Lee, who also went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs.
Calvert tacked on the third run of the game for Strike Zone when he came around to score on a fielder's choice from Ethan Spellbring.
"It was important to keep scoring runs and keep the momentum in our favor," Morrissey said.
Strike Zone scored twice in the fifth inning to put the game away.
Austin Davis led off with a walk and then came around to score on a Knickerbocker bunt single that was accompanied by two Naa'taanii throwing errors.
Lee then drove Knickerbocker with a double to the wall in left field.
Naa'taanii will have to battle through the losers' bracket, playing as many as six times over the next five days to clinch the Connie Mack World Series bid.
"We just have to regroup and stay positive. This going to be a long tournament," Naa'taanii head coach Dineh Benally said. "I've seen it happen where teams lost the first game and ended up winning the whole thing."
Strike Zone will advance to face the Sting, which had a bye in the first round, at 5:30 p.m. today at Ricketts Park.
Lee said it will be interesting to play against a lot of his former high school teammates on the FHS developmental team.
"It will be a friendly match, but we've just got to come out and get the job done," he said.
In the other game at Ricketts Park, Bayfield defeated RC Foster 3-2 to move on in the tournament.
Naa'taanii will see RC Foster after its opening round defeat at the Farmington Sports Complex at 5:30 p.m.
Bayfield will play the Pack after they defeated RC Baker 2-1 in their first round game.