For the first time in five years, one of Fallon’s longtime rivals makes its return to the Greenwave’s diamond.
In addition, today and Saturday’s showdown between Fallon and Elko also has first place and control of the Northern Division I-A in mind. First pitch today is at 3 p.m. and Saturday’s doubleheader begins at 11 a.m. Fallon also hosts Fernley on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
Fallon is in first place with a 6-1 league mark (6-6 overall), while second-place Elko sits at 8-2, 11-4.
“It’s an opponent looking forward to all year,” Fallon coach Lester de Braga said. “It’s an opponent that we know if we are going to get to that next level — the playoffs — we have to go through. Our goal is to win the series, that is win two of three, but we would love to sweep. Elko swept us last year and we are looking forward to winning this series no matter what it takes.”
Fallon is rolling as the Wave (6-1 league, 6-6 overall) has won six of their last seven including an 8-3 win over Fernley last week.
Elko is coming off a series win against Sparks where the Indians took two of three games including a 9-6 win in eight innings on Saturday. Elko, though, fell short of the sweep with a 5-4 loss to cap Saturday’s doubleheader.
Nevertheless, the two favorites for the league title come into today’s action hot.
Fallon is led by sophomore ace Alex Mendez, who is tied for the lowest ERA in the Division I-A with a miniscule 0.70 mark and is third in the North with 25 strikeouts and three wins.
He has allowed just 10 hits in 20 innings, two earned runs and only six walks in league play.
With more than a week of rest, the standout fireballer is primed to lead the Wave into the weekend.
In addition to Mendez, Joe Pyle, Cade Monardo and Riley Williams add depth and quality to the starting rotation and provide velocity and an evolving variety of pitches to keep Elko’s hitters off balance.
“The depth itself is always a plus,” de Braga said, “but we got guys who are starting to learn a second and third pitch. We’ve been kind of relying on our fastball moving inside and out. We’ve been working really hard on off-speed pitches and that’s coming around really well. I think that’s going to be a huge bonus, especially with a team like Elko to keep them off balance.”
Should the starters run into trouble, relievers Chase McElvain has been stout in relief along with Dylan Jabines and Williams if needed.
McElvain, though, has tallied six strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work and has surrendered three runs, none of them earned.
Collectively, Fallon’s stable of arms has a 1.72 ERA with 44 strikeouts to just 24 walks and only allowed 11 earned runs.
Offensively, Joe Pyle has been on fire with a .476 batting average, fourth in the league, and two doubles.
Fallon has outscored its league foes 69-27, although the Wave aims to put all aspects of its offense together this weekend, de Braga said.
“I don’t think we are quite at our game yet as far as small-ball goes,” he explained. “But that’s something we’ve been working very hard on. If we are going to go to the next level, we just can’t win it on slugging. We got to get that small-ball in and running game going. I’m hoping that this weekend is the week that we all come together and get it done. We’ve got the kids to do it.”
Defensively, though, Fallon must continue its stingy play as Elko uses its running game to ignite its offense.
The Indians, like Fallon, move runners via the stolen base. The Indians have tallied 57 stolen bases this season led by R.J. Bajarano, who has 12.
But Elko must get on base, first, and then get past catchers Brock Uptain and Will Bliss.
The two backstops have been solid all year for the Wave and possess the arm strength to throw out runners. However, it will be key for Fallon’s pitchers to hold the Elko runners tight and try to force ground balls for an eager infield waiting to turn a double play.
“We got to change up our looks,” de Braga said. “We got to make (their) runners think. If they want to play small-ball, we are very defensively sound against that. With our catching, we are two, three deep at catcher. So far, teams haven’t really run on us. I think we’ll be fine.”
Although Elko runs, so does Fallon. It’s been a staple of the program to steal bases, hit-and-run, hit behind the runners and to take the extra bag when available.
Fallon’s lineup, which features a number of combinations, is hitting .362 as a unit, scored 67 runs on 76 hits with 18 extra-base hits.
The Wave sports seven hitters with two or more doubles led by Jabines with three. He, Williams and Branden Beeghly lead the team with six RBIS apiece and also have the pop to put a pitch over the fence.
Softball hosts Elko
The Fallon softball team also hosts Elko today and Saturday at the Edward Arciniega Complex.
The Lady Wave is riding a seven-game Northern Division I-A winning streak and is in first place. Elko, meanwhile, comes in at 6-4 in league and in fourth place.
Fallon returns to the diamond on Tuesday when it hosts rival Fernley at 3 p.m.