An historic win -- maybe? -- for Hope Christian baseball

Apr. 23—Keegan Johnson is a sophomore at Hope Christian, so he could be forgiven for not knowing the answer.

"It felt good to beat Academy, first time in I don't know how long," Johnson said.

Huskies senior pitcher Joe Marek offered a bit more context. But the truth is, even his response was somewhat incomplete.

"We've been battling this for all of our years," he said. "We haven't beaten them once."

This was true. Hope Christian's dramatic, 7-6, walkoff victory on Tuesday over Albuquerque Academy was the first time this batch of seniors had beaten the Chargers after seven previous tries since the 2021 season.

Turns out, there is more to this drought. Much more.

The recordkeeping on goes back to 2008. There is not a record of Hope Christian beating Academy's baseball team in any of the last 16 years. Moreover, there was no way to immediately verify if the Huskies had EVER beaten Academy in baseball.

"It was a huge win for us," Marek said. "This is super exciting for us."

Johnson was the walkoff hero, smacking a single to center with no outs in the bottom of the seventh, scoring the game-winning run from third base at the Jennifer Riordan Chase Kindness Sports Complex on the West Side, where Hope Christian plays its home games.

The Huskies (16-7 overall) pulled into a first-place tie with the Chargers (13-10) in District 6-4A. Both are 4-2 in league play with two games remaining. Bernalillo is also 4-2 after the Spartans whipped Del Norte on Tuesday.

"I think we deserve it, after all the hard work we put in," said Marek, Hope's starting pitcher who worked into the seventh before leaving due to having reached his pitch limit. "This team is so talented. We have our ups and downs, but I'm glad we stuck together."

Academy and Hope Christian both had two leads before the seventh inning in an interesting, entertaining matchup.

The Huskies scored the first run. The Chargers answered with two in the second. Hope Christian tied it 2-2 in the third.

Academy scored three times, all unearned runs, in the top of the fifth to break the tie.

But Hope Christian answered with four in the bottom half. Nolan Garcia scored two on a double down the left-field line, and Johnson scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly. Designated hitter Gavin Pena's RBI single gave the Huskes a 6-5 lead.

In the seventh, a misplayed ball in the outfield set up an Academy runner at third base, and he scored on a sac fly to tie the game 6-all.

In the bottom of the seventh, Brady McGahie led off by reaching on an error. Garcia singled, putting runners at first and third. Then Johnson hit the game-winner.

"Keegan started off as a JV kid, we just moved him up, and his bat has gotten hot lately," Hope Christian coach Fernando Salinas said. "He's really come through for us."

Hope and Academy had played nine times between the 2019 season and Tuesday. The Chargers won all nine, most by huge margins. The schools did not play between 2008 and 2018.

And now, it's a race to the finish line between the Huskies (who lost their first two district games), Chargers and Bernalillo to see who takes the 6-4A title.

"We had to win today," Salinas said. "Must win. The kids? No highs, no lows, they find a way. They fight through it."