Since winning the school’s first state baseball title in decades, the Greenwave spent the last two seasons in a minor, downward spiraling funk.
While there’s no reason to be alarmed — Fallon has still made the postseason — getting back to the state tournament and being the last team standing continues to be the ultimate goal for coach Lester de Braga’s program.
And he has no reason to believe Fallon can’t make it back after a one-year hiatus as 13 players return for the 2014 chapter of Greenwave baseball.
“We’re coming back with experience. That’s probably our strong point,” the fourth-year coach said. “We’re still young but it’s youthful experience.”
Five seniors, along with a jaw-dropping nine juniors, will try to point Fallon in the right direction after coming one win shy from reaching state last season.
After losing to Elko in last year’s regional tournament, Fallon faced a do-or-die situation against rival Truckee, with the winner advancing to the title game and representing the North at state. Fallon’s comeback bid fell short as it saw the California school win 9-8 and return to defend its state title, although both Elko and Truckee were outdone by the Las Vegas schools.
“We’ve got so many kids returning,” said de Braga, who’s assisted by Dave Munoz, Eric Clifford, Trevor de Braga and Brett Workman. “All the kids have been in my program from up to four years. We don’t have many weaknesses as far as the scrimmage went (on Saturday). I truly believe we don’t have any weaknesses at this point.”
This year’s league schedule, though, will be different than previous years, eliminating the pods and games against the Division III. No more ROP, Pershing County, Silver Stage or even Yerington this season.
Instead, each team will play three-game series against the other eight in the Northern Division I-A, capped off by the regional tournament that features the top four teams competing in May, which will be held in either Fernley or Fallon.
De Braga’s counting on the competition to be as tough and consistent as the previous season.
“We don’t have any games in the schedule that we can take off,” he said. “We were one of the coaches in favor of the tripleheaders.”
Truckee, South Tahoe and Sparks gave each other fits last year, while Lowry and Elko advanced to the regional tournament. Elko, though, lost nine seniors, including its top two pitchers as they helped the Indians roll through the Northern DI-A, going perfect in 14 games, including four in the postseason.
“That will be a plus as the season progresses and everyone improves,” de Braga said about facing each team three times. “It’s going to be an advantage but everyone is in the same position. Our goal is to go win two of three in a series and that will take care of itself.”
The heart and soul of this year’s team rest with the five seniors, including three who will start for de Braga.
Tristen Salazar and his high-octane fastball leads the pitching staff after overwhelming opponents last year, while southpaws Nic Stenberg and Cody Long return for their final season. Stenberg, though, is ineligible to begin the season, while Chance Beyer and Ryan Merkley, both outfielders, round out the senior class.
“Our team is looking very solid this year,” Salazar said. “As a team, I believe our goal is to work together as one unit, to bring our program to its best level and win as many games as possible.”
The junior class is spread all over the field, beginning with leadoff hitter and outfielder Dalton Frank. Along with Frank, Tyler Bagby (catcher), Joe Pyle (first), Dylan Jabines (third), Sage Orozco (shortstop) and Chase McElvain (pitcher) return, while Riley Williams (pitcher, infield) is the lone sophomore.
New to the team are juniors David Hughes (outfield), Sage Mori (shortstop) and Austin Bischoff (outfield); sophomores Branden Beeghly (catcher), Cade Monardo (pitcher), Kyle Larsen (second) and Trae Workman (catcher, outfield); and freshman Jack Swisher (infield).