Lester de Braga is looking for a few good men to step up this baseball season.
The Greenwave baseball team fought off elimination long enough in the regional to qualify for state last season, but let a lead slip in the state opener and couldn’t get to the championship after winning it all in 2015. A lack of leadership played a hand in Fallon’s fate but de Braga’s seniors have already stepped up this season as Fallon competes in the Mike Bearman Memorial Tournament this weekend.
“They seemed like they have the reigns,” de Braga said of senior, three-year lettermen pitcher Alex Mendez, catcher Brock Uptain and second baseman Jack Swisher. “Last year, it’s something we lacked. I’ve seen great leadership from those three. I’ve never had that problem before. It’s something you can’t force on somebody but it’s something we can encourage. From the coaching standpoint, getting someone to take that is part of why we struggled. We had a great team and great individuals. We didn’t have great leadership.”
Fallon returns 11 from last year’s bunch, led by 10 seniors, including de Braga’s infield trio.
“It’s going to be good. We’ve got a lot of returners and kids have moved up from the JV level and have been in the program at least two years,” de Braga said. “We’ve got the experience coming back. We have more leadership. Last year, we struggled a little bit. We’re seeing that in our seniors. That’s been a plus for us.”
T.J. Fagg, Alex Vest, Colton Coverston and Nick Sanches return as seniors, while Dalton Kaady and Chase Sanches are new. The junior class includes one returner, Jack Wickizer, and four newcomers, including Hunter Parsons, Brandon Rau, Russell Vershum and Nate Pustovrh. Sophomore Sean McCormick returns, and sophomores Chase Irvin, Brenden Larsen and Edgar Alvarado, and freshman Brock Richardson are in their first year with the team.
In Fallon’s first and only scrimmage last weekend at Reed, de Braga and his staff of Trevor de Braga, Dave Munoz and Riley Horn saw Fallon compete well offensively and the younger players showed they belong on varsity.
“We’ve seen some good things with the bats,” he added. “A couple kids who moved up from the JV level showed some promising things at this level. We were able to see what we had from this weekend to work on at practice.”
Fallon’s strength this season will be its pitching, which starts with right-handed flamethrower Mendez. Along with Mendez, Vest (RHP), Nick Sanches (LHP), Palmer (RHP), Wickizer (LHP), Rau (RHP), Strasdin (RHP), Larsen (RHP) and Alvarado (RHP) will see time on the hill.
“From last year’s rotation, we lost only one starter and maybe one relief pitcher,” de Braga said. “We’ll be returning seven, eight arms that rank up there with anybody in the league.”
Surrounding the staff will be an experienced infield, beginning with Uptain behind the plate.
Coverston will be on the right side of the diamond at first with Swisher, while McCormick is at shortstop and Pustovrh, Alvarado and Mendez will share time at third. Irvin will see action at second and Strasdin at first, as well. The outfield will consist of Fagg, Kaady, Wickizer, Parsons, Vershum, Irvin and Richardson.
“Basically, with the team that we went to regional and state, we’re returning the whole infield,” de Braga said.
The coach said this year’s team might not have the same pop as the previous years but Fallon will take advantage of small-ball tactics, including hit-and-run and bunting.
“I don’t know if we’ve had the power as we had in the past years,” he said. “We have a solid one through nine who make contact with the ball. We have some things to work on. It’s not going to take long to get them back in tune.”
After this weekend, Fallon will begin league play and de Braga feels strongly that anyone can win the division. Elko defeated Fallon in the regional title last year but lost many seniors, like Fallon. Spring Creek won the regular-season title and returns most of its starters. Don’t count out Dayton or Fernley this year.
“Elko graduated quite a few seniors, but Elko is always Elko. They have a strong program out there,” de Braga said. “Spring Creek, of course, is the team that won the league last year and graduated very few kids off that team. Look for them to be a frontrunner. Dayton took us by surprise. They’re going to be more competitive. With the kids (Fernley) is returning and type of ball they played, the league’s going to be more balanced. No one’s going to take off and run away with it. It’s going to be a competitive league.”