The quest for an unprecedented third straight championship begins today.
The Fallon softball team (19-9 overall, 9-3 Northern Division I-A) aims to make school history and their journey begins at 2 p.m. today in a doubleheader against South Tahoe in the first round of the Northern DI-A playoffs at the Ed Arciniega Complex. Game 2 is slated for 4 p.m. today, and if necessary, Game 3 will be at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“That’s the first step of the playoffs,” Fallon coach Bill Archer said. “That’s the team that’s in our way, but our girls are focused and not looking past South Tahoe.”
A veteran club with four starters who have won two titles, and another two players collected championship rings last season, the Lady Wave aim to become the first program in school history to win three straight titles.
Due to realignment in the south, only two clubs from the north qualify for the state tournament May 17-18 at UNLV. The winner of this weekend’s series advances to next week’s regional tournament in Winnemucca.
Fallon drilled the Vikings, 11-0, on March 15, but Archer said that game was “a season ago” and has his club ready for today. Despite the early-season win, Fallon is coming off a nine-day hiatus, but Archer kept the intensity at a high level during practice.
“We brought up other kids and did scrimmages (with the JV),” he said. “We tried to match up against the different pitchers we’ll see in the playoffs, and trying to keep sharp in all three facets of the game.”
The veterans have walked this path before, however, this season Fallon may not be the favorite. Nevertheless, the Lady Wave have the target on their back due to the two titles.
Leading the way this season has been seniors Kaysee Archer and Cady Cordes and junior Rileigh Ricken and sophomore Ali Tedford. All four are hitting above .300 and Ricken leads the club with five home runs.
“It’s their (the veterans) time to step up and make everybody understand that everyone in this playoff format will step up their game,” Bill Archer said. “They’ve just been coming in and playing real business-like is the theme of the day.”
As for the youngsters, freshman third baseman Megan McCormick and rightfielder Paige Thorn have held their own. The two sport averages above .300 and each have driven in 18 runs.
Another freshman, Izzy Thomas, missed some of the season due to an abdominal injury, but will return for the postseason. Thomas has been solid in left field and has contributed at the plate with a .312 average, 10 runs scored in 32 at-bats from the leadoff spot.
Archer, though, has worked with the youngsters to play within themselves to allow the game to come to them.
“When they are playing, they need to continue what they’ve been doing,” he said. “It’s ahrd to simulate it in practice — the playoff scenario — but we’ve definetly tried to put pressure on the kids so they can handle that pressure during the playoffs.”
Offensively, Archer said the club went into a funk toward the end of the season, especially against rival Fernley. Leaving runners on base played a big role in the Lady Wave’s 2-0 loss to the Vaqueros on April 17 and through the rest of the series.
“With disciplined hitting and putting runners in scoring position, we give ourselves multiple opportunities,” he said. “We didn’t capitalize on those opportunities and we plan on doing that.”
In the circle, Ricken is the club’s ace and Fallon must rely on her arm to advance to its third straight state tournament. She has complied a 12-7 record with a 2.50 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 114.2 innings.
If needed, freshman Miranda Ford will relieve Ricken as the newcomer as been solid in the circle for Fallon. Ford has posted a 6-2 record with a 3.55 ERA in 43.1 innings.
“Rileigh has done a great job for us … and is very focused,” Archer said. “Not only does she do it in the circle, she brings the offense. Miranda finished with some save and got some wins during those doubleheaders.”