No one said it was going to be easy winning a third-straight state championship, let alone qualifying for the biggest tournament of the season.
But the Lady Wave softball team is three wins away from winning another crown after they survived the Northern Division I-A regional tournament in Winnemucca last weekend.
Fallon met its Lahontan League nemesis three times in the tournament, getting the upper hand in two of the contests. After sending Fernley to the consolation bracket, Fallon rebounded in the championship to win the third game, 7-4, and capture its first regional title and the division’s first regional since this year’s realignment altered the postseason format.
“They were tough. It was a dogfight like we expected,” Fallon coach Bill Archer said. “You look at (our) team compared to teams in the past and the run production is higher. Fernley puts the ball in play and forces teams to adjust.”
Fallon faces the South’s No. 2 seed, Faith Lutheran, at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday at UNLV while Fernley takes on the top seed, Chaparral. Just like last week, the two winners will meet for a spot in the title game while the losers drop into the consolation bracket where one more loss ends the season.
“We don’t know a whole lot about the South,” the first-year coach said. “Fernley’s in it so we can prepare for them but if we clean up some stuff on our side, then everything will take care of itself.”
The pressure of three-peating doesn’t appear to cloud the team going into the state tournament this week, but Archer said the team’s been focused on the one-game approach.
“We got ourselves out as the No. 1 seed in the North,” he said. “We don’t want to put pressure on ourselves but we look at it as one game at a time.”
Fallon was down to its last three outs and facing a potential comeback through the consolation bracket before winning its opener in extra innings. After edging Lowry, 5-3, in eight innings, Fallon beat top-seed Fernley for the second-straight time, 7-5, to punch its ticket to the state tournament. The Vaqueros, who clinched a state berth after beating Lowry in nine innings, defeated the Lady Wave in eight innings, 10-9, in the second game.
“I thought the team showed a lot of heart in the Winnemucca game,” Archer said. “The kids stepped up really well. It carried over into the second game. Our attitude was whatever happens on Saturday happens as long as we stay healthy.”
Fallon rode on the pitching of Rileigh Ricken as the junior grinded out a gutsy effort after gutsy effort against Lowry and Fernley. Freshman Megan McCormick provided the fireworks during the tournament, especially in the finale as she belted two home runs in consecutive at-bats to give Fallon the lead. McCormick smacked a solo homer in her second at-bat before hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning to give the Lady Wave a two-run lead.
“She doesn’t play like a freshman,” Archer said of McCormick, who also had a home run on Friday. “She’s a keeper.”
Archer said it was nice to see his pitchers step up and come through and was pleased that Fallon was able to have balance with all three phases of the game, from pitching to steady defense and solid run production.
“We had some pretty decent production in the pitching (game),” said Archer, who also used Miranda Ford to start the “if” game. “If pitching was all that mattered, then Dayton would be undefeated. You still need to have all three aspects of the game.”
In Fallon’s extra-inning win over Lowry, Kaysee Archer lined a solo home run in the first inning but the Buckaroos came back with three unanswered to lead by two for most of the game. Fallon tied it in the seventh with a two-run, two-rally before Ricken smacked a two-run double that scored Archer and McCormick.
“That was the turning point of the tournament,” Bill Archer said. “We knew Lowry would be tough.”
Ricken pitched the first encounter with Fernley on Friday, going all seven innings.
The junior hurler benefited from Fallon’s four-run first inning as the Lady Wave held on for a two-run win. After edging Lowry in extras, Fernley battled Fallon in the championship to force a second game after coming back to tie the game late and then break the tie in the eighth to win the game.
“We hit the ball and it was a combination of hits and moving some runners,” Bill Archer said. “(Fernley) put the ball in play and got hits. They capitalized by moving runners over.”