Johnson delivers Academy’s game-winning hit for 4A state title - Albuquerque Journal

Johnson delivers Academy’s game-winning hit for 4A state title

With one crack of his bat, Devan Johnson simultaneously walked off both the St. Pius Sartans and this COVID-tinted high school sports year.

The final game in this sprint of a New Mexico spring/summer prep calendar yielded one of its most indelible and jaws-agape moments. Johnson’s one-out, three-run double to the gap in left-center sent sixth-seeded Albuquerque Academy to a pulsating, 8-7 victory over No. 1 St. Pius in the Class 4A state baseball final at Santa Ana Star Field on Saturday night.

The Sartans (17-3) scored five runs in the top of the seventh for a 7-4 lead.

Then Academy (17-6) conjured its own magic, scoring four in the bottom half for its first baseball championship since 2015.

And this was perhaps the most meaningful single victory in the history of the program.

“Couldn’t get any better,” Academy coach Chris Alexander said.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Johnson rifled a ball between outfielders.

“I knew that was in the gap,” said Johnson, a junior outfielder. “I knew that was a walkoff as soon as I hit it.”

One by one, his teammates crossed the plate. Ethan Krebs first, Dominic Baca for the tying run, and then, racing around from first base, Jodhan Fine with the game-winner.

Academy’s celebration quickly centered on Johnson, who was smothered and tackled near third base.

“When he stepped up to bat, I was thinking that there’s no one better we’d want at the plate,” said Baca, whose RBI single two batters previous cut the St. Pius lead to 7-5. “He’s been a great hitter all year.”

It’s one thing to win a state championship if you’re the Chargers. It’s another to do it the way they did it Saturday night, so unexpectedly as a large crowd witnessed the last prep sports event in the state until the middle of August.

And it’s quite another still to walk it off against your biggest rival.

“To do it in a state championship game like that, that’s awesome,” Johnson said. He was 3-for-3, part of a 13-hit attack for the Chargers.

Trailing 4-2 entering the seventh, St. Pius thought it had authored the game-winning rally. There were a single and two walks to start the comeback. Josh Salas’ two-run double down the left-field line tied the game 4-4. Jordan Rodriguez’s suicide squeeze bunt scored the go-ahead run moments later, and St. Pius added two insurance runs.

“They weren’t down,” Alexander said of his team’s mood before the final at-bat. “They were kind of determined.”

Mark McNaney and Krebs singled back-to-back to open the bottom of the seventh. Baca’s RBI single sliced the deficit to two runs. Fine was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Then it was Johnson and his mighty swing.

“We had the right guys up that last inning,” Alexander said. “If anyone is gonna put a ball in the gap there to get to the fence, it’s that guy.”

St. Pius took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on Gene Trujillo’s two-run single. Academy answered with three in the bottom half. Fine and Cody Roe had RBI singles, and a third run scored on a wild pitch. Academy went up 4-2 in the sixth on Ryan Pullen’s RBI single.

“It was a great game to be a part of,” St. Pius coach Matt McCoy said.

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