Getting to the playoffs has never been a problem for the Greenwave baseball team.
Even reaching the state tournament has happened in three of the four years since 2011.
But since winning the school’s first state title in 30 years, Fallon has been unable to finish the job at state, including last year’s humbling loss to Faith Lutheran in Reno.
“At the end of the season in the state title game, we peaked at the right time,” said fifth-year coach Lester de Braga, whose team knocked off South Tahoe to win the regional title. “We just happened to run into a pitcher who threw a little harder than we had seen all year long. That was mainly the difference in the game. They were up for the challenge.”
The good news, though, is nearly everyone is back from that team, which featured 10 underclassmen, including a trio of freshmen and the emergence of this year’s ace on the pitching staff. Gone are a handful of seniors from last year’s club, but de Braga has a good feeling about the 2015 team.
“We return 19 kids off that roster from last year. We should be sitting really well,” said de Braga, who’s assisted by Trevor de Braga, Eric Clifford, Bret Workman and Dave Munoz. “We had a great tryout and the kids looked good. We’re ready to roll.”
Fallon’s strength this season will be the pitching staff, which boasts a solid starting rotation led by sophomore Alex Mendez, a hard-throwing right-hander. Along with Mendez, senior Joe Pyle and junior Riley Williams return to the rotation. Senior Chase McElvain and junior Cade Monardo return as relievers this year while juniors Clay Davison and Calvin Greenwell join the team for the first time and will report out of the bullpen.
“Just based on what we have returning, strengths are going to be our pitching. We return all of our starters except for one,” de Braga said.
Offense and defense shouldn’t be an issue, either, barring any injuries or ineligibility.
“Offensively, we got a very strong lineup,” de Braga said. “Defensively, we got some experience in all positions. On paper, we should be as good or better than last year.”
Like the Faith Lutheran club they lost to at state, the Greenwave boast a strong senior class of nine players.
“Another year of maturity should help us again this year and help overcome those issues,” de Braga said. “Now that we know what the South has for pitchers, we can work on that harder and be more prepared if we make it there again.”
David Hughes (outfield), Sage Orozco (infield, shortstop), Dylan Jabines (third base), Sage Mori (infield, shortstop), Dalton Frank (outfield), Austin Bischoff (outfield), Tyler Bagby (catcher), Pyle (first base) and McElvain return as seniors this year with Bagby being a force behind and at the plate. The junior class includes Kyle Larsen (infield), Marshall Coverston (outfield), Trae Workman (catcher, outfield), Branden Beeghly (catcher), Kendall Johnson, Will Bliss, Michael Porris, Cameron Byers,Williams, Monardo, Greenwell and Davison. Along with Mendez, Jack Swisher and Brock Uptain return as sophomores.
“They were the returning state champs from (2013),” de Braga said. “This year, we’re going in with same roster and we’re looking at an experienced squad that knows what to expect. Just from the signs showed in tryouts, they’re up for challenge. They’re relaxed and confident. Barring injuries and keeping kids eligible, we should be the team to beat.”
The regional outlook doesn’t look different from last year as far as who’s sitting on the top of the league.
Elko had a down year in 2014 after graduating a large senior class, but South Tahoe surprised the league by making it to the regional championship and state consolation championship games. Truckee was young like Elko last year and should see improvement in 2015.
“They’re always one of those teams who play us tough,” de Braga said about Truckee. “You can’t overlook South Tahoe. They have their program on the right track. They have some great players and great caliber.”
Fallon opens the season on Thursday with the annual Mike Beaman Memorial Tournament in Reno where it will face mostly Division I teams in the next three days. De Braga views the tournament as a tool to help establish a lineup for the league season while facing some of the top teams in the state’s largest class.
“I always want to go face the toughest competition,” de Braga said. “We seem to play to the caliber of the team. It helps you and gives you an indication of where you are at. At the end of the season, that’s the type of competition you’re going to face.”