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WESTLAKE — After five hours of game play over two days, a combined 539 pitches, 24 hits and a mind-boggling 127 at-bats, the job was simple for Westlake’s Nate Johnson.
“I knew I just needed to get it in the air,” the Tulane commit said.
Johnson was up to bat with Westlake runners on second and third and no outs. He hit a fly ball to deep center field that allowed Dillon Marrisett to tag up from third base and score the winning run to give the Warriors a 3-2 victory over South Torrance in a record-setting 19 inning game in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
The win advances Westlake (20-11) to the semifinals. It will travel to face San Marcos on Tuesday afternoon.
The two-day saga marked the second longest baseball game in the CIF Southern Section since 1965, and the longest since 2008 when Harvard-Westlake and Downey went to 20 innings.
“It wasn’t easy,” Johnson said laughing, alluding to his eight-pitch at-bat. “But once I made contact, I knew the game was over. It was a relief.”
Nate Johnson does it. Sac fly to center scores Dillon Marrisett from third.
Westlake tops South Torrance 3-2 after 19 innings, the longest CIF Southern Section game since 1965.
Warriors advance to the Division 3 semis. pic.twitter.com/cldUSH1zxo
— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) May 13, 2023
Friday’s portion of the game was called due to darkness at 7:45 p.m. at 2-2 after 17 innings, after starting at 3:15 p.m. Saturday’s game resumed at 11 a.m. and lasted 30 minutes.
“I’ve never coached (a game) that long, and I’ve never seen one that long,” South Torrance coach Grady Sain said. “I think I coached a game when we went to 11.”
Johnson didn’t just deliver the winning RBI, he delivered the pitching, too, throwing two innings Saturday. He allowed just one hit and struck out two.
“There was no discussion when it came to the decision of throwing Nate, he is always willing to do what it asked of him,” Barnett said.
“When coach told me I was throwing, I was ready,” Johnson said.
On Friday, Westlake took a 1-0 lead when Kaden Youmans’ bunt down the first base line scored Nate Franco from third in the fourth inning.
The Warriors were three outs away from victory, but South Torrance’s Kyle Brown delivered an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the seventh.
In the top of the ninth, a wild pitch from Westlake’s Andrew Cusworth allowed Brown to scamper home from third base to give South Torrance a 2-1 lead.
Westlake tied the game at 2-2 thanks to Dillon Marrisett’s two-out RBI single.
The game went scoreless from the 10th to the 18th inning. Three players batted eight times and eight players batted seven times in the 19 innings.
“South Torrance deserves a lot of credit,” Barnett said. “To drive out here two days in a row is impressive. That’s a very strong-minded team. I’ve never seen two pitchers throw more than 90 pitches in one game.”
James Broughton threw eight innings and 99 pitches. His younger brother, Peter Broughton, threw seven innings and 97 pitches. The two combined for 12 strikeouts for the Spartans (19-11).
“I told these guys since the playoffs started, we weren’t supposed to be here,” Westlake coach Wally Barnett said. “We earned an at-large bid from our league. We were lucky to get in, but knew we belonged. Clearly, we’ve shown that.”