There was a time not too long ago when D.J. Johnson feared the worst.
As a sophomore at Lake Mead, Johnson dislocated his kneecap several times during the basketball season and underwent a high tibial osteotomy, a surgical procedure designed to realign the leg and relieve pressure on the knee joint.
“It took me out of basketball and the doctors didn’t know if I would play sports ever again,” said Johnson, now a senior. “But God was just with me, because here I am.”
Johnson overcame an early bout of wildness on Saturday and finished with a three-hitter as Lake Mead beat Carlin 7-2 at Arbor View to capture the Class 1A state baseball title.
“Three years ago, I took over the program — because it was the only sport my son could play — to be around him,” Eagles coach Doug Johnson said after his team finished 22-8. “To get where we are at now is amazing. We’re a basketball school, but it’s nice to throw another sport in there.”
D.J. Johnson walked seven batters and hit three more. But Carlin (23-9), which stranded 12 runners in all, left the bases loaded in each of the first two innings.
Johnson settled down after that, finishing with four strikeouts. He even called off his infield teammates to squeeze the last out of the game on a pop up by Louis Armendariz.
“I had a great defense behind me,” D.J. Johnson said. “My team showed up to play. So did they, we just capitalized on some of their errors.”
The Railroaders committed five errors, including one in the fifth inning that allowed Josh Bratton to score and give Lake Mead a 4-2 lead. Four batters later, Devon Serrano dropped a single into center that brought home Drew Erickson to make it 5-2.
The Eagles tacked on two insurance runs in the sixth on run-scoring singles by Bratton and Erickson.
Serrano finished 2-for-2 to spark an aggressive Lake Mead offense, while Zach Mullins and Junior Mora each went 2-for-3. Bratton was 2-for-4.
“We call that Ray Ball,” Doug Johnson said, referring to Eagles third-base coach Ray Crane. “He loves to double steal and play small ball. He’s a very aggressive coach and we’ve got kids that can run, too.”
D.J. Johnson hit the first two batters of the game and walked two more in the first, but the Railroaders’ only run came when Blayne Newman scored on a wild pitch.
Carlin loaded the bases with two outs in the second thanks to two more walks and a hit batter, but Johnson got Chris Hyatt on a comebacker to end the threat.
“My team calmed me down and that definitely helped,” D.J. Johnson said. “This is my first year pitching, so I just had to go back to basics.”
Two years ago, Pahranagat Valley spoiled Carlin’s chance for a third straight Class 1A softball title.
On Saturday, Carlin returned the favor, stopping the Panthers from earning a three-peat with a 5-4 win.
Dusty Harrison’s RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the Railroaders (20-8-1) past Pahranagat Valley (20-10-1) in the title game at Majestic Park.
Pahranagat Valley, which saw a 2-0 lead erode in the fifth inning, went up 4-3 with two runs on Carlin errors in the top of the seventh inning.
Kelsie Jensen’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh plated Sam Salisbury with the tying run and forced the extra inning.
Courtney Pengelly walked to begin the bottom of the eighth and scored on a double by Harrison, Carlin’s No. 9 hitter.
The Railroaders won their third state title, all in the last five years.