Eyes on the prize
The Division I-A double-elimination state tournament kicks off Thursday at Sparks High School.
Faith Lutheran faces South Tahoe at 1 p.m. followed by Fallon versus Chaparral at 4 p.m.
The winners meet Friday at 1 p.m., while the loser’s play at 10 a.m. The consolation final is at 4 p.m. Friday.
The state championship game is at 9 a.m. Saturday at the University of Nevada’s Peccole Park and if a second game is necessary, it will begin about 30 minutes after the first game.
After a one-year hiatus, the Fallon baseball team returns to the Division I-A state tournament.
As a sidebar, should the Greenwave win it all, they would have the most state championships in baseball in Nevada history with 10, breaking a tie with Virgin Valley (nine).
Fallon, though, enters its third state tournament in four years after winning the Northern DI-A regional tournament with a 13-3 drubbing over South Tahoe on Saturday in South Lake Tahoe. Now, Fallon turns its attention to a familiar situation, the state tournament and chases its second title in four years.
The Wave (22-8-1) opens with a first-round matchup against Southern I-A runner-up Chaparral (24-4) at 4 p.m. Thursday at Sparks High School. In the other game, defending state champ Faith Lutheran (25-5) battles South Tahoe (18-15) at 1 p.m.
“It’s one of those things where if you go in and it’s your first time, you have a lot of jitters,” Fallon coach Lester de Braga said. “This program’s been there enough times where we have confidence and don’t go in scared.”
Fallon’s ride to the state tournament came on the arms of solid pitching performances from Tristen Salazar, Alex Mendez and Cade Monardo. The difference in this tournament, however, is the unfamiliarity between the Northern and Southern teams.
Salazar, who is the only current player on the 2011 team, said the staff must stay ahead in the count, change speeds and work both sides of the plate.
“Our staff has been experienced with going to state,” he added. “As long as we stick to their (the coaches) game plan, we should be OK. It starts at practice and you have to push yourself.
De Braga, meanwhile, believes his staff and starting rotation will get the job done. In addition to Salazar, Mendez and Monardo, the fourth-year coach also relies on Cody Long, Joe Pyle and Riley Williams.
With the possibility of playing five games in three days, a deep and experienced rotation is critical. Fallon’s staff, though, came up big in the regional tournament needing only five pitchers to capture the crown.
Salazar, Mendez and Monardo, though, threw a combined 16 1/3 innings out of a possible 19.
“It’s no different than what it’s been,” catcher Tyler Bagby said of handling the staff. “We are going to pound the outside and do what we’ve done all year.”
Offensively, Dalton Frank, Bagby, Branden Beeghly and Salazar led a group capable of putting up big innings, as they did last weekend.
Frank, the leadoff hitter, possesses speed and power and sets the tone. Bagby, meanwhile, is a threat to go deep anytime and is the Wave’s best hitter.
Beeghly adds a consistent contact presence and can put the ball in all fields, while Salazar provides a solid hitter deep in the lineup and adds speed on the basepaths.
“Once we a big hit, it starts a rally,” Frank said. “We just have to hit the ball.”
But the biggest question is what pitching, and the velocity associated with those arms, do Chaparral and Faith Lutheran counter with. For now, speculation runs wild as Frank said the Wave must be ready for speeds rarely seen in the North.
“We are going to have to take this week of practice seriously,” he added. “We heard they have bigger caliber pitchers. It’s not going to be a 10-run (win). It’s going to come down to the seventh inning.”
De Braga, though, is playing off experience in the past state tournaments. He said many of the clubs the Wave has faced in the past have not been small-ball teams and rely more on power.
“We don’t know anything about them,” de Braga said. “I’m assuming … there not small-ball teams, and there not used to defending small-ball teams. I think we can put pressure on them that way.”
South Tahoe’s run continues
South Tahoe’s magical run to and in the postseason continues.
The Vikings clinched the program’s first-ever trip to the state tournament with a 10-8 win over Spring Creek in the consolation final on Saturday. South Tahoe opened the tournament with an 8-6 win over Elko before losing 12-2 to Fallon.
South Tahoe clinched its second-ever spot in the regional tournament with a 10-7 win over Fallon two weeks ago.
The Vikings are led by Dominic Diana, who is hitting .552 with 53 RBIs, nine doubles and three home runs. River Quinn adds speed and a consistent approach as he is hitting .473 with 21 RBIs and eight doubles.
Kolby Eymann comes with a .425 average and eight doubles, while Sergio Burgueno is hitting .398 with 32 RBIs and six doubles.
On the mound, Dakota Lynch is 5-3 with a 4.75 ERA and Garrett Harley is 4-3 with a 5.40 ERA.
South Tahoe has never won a state title in baseball.
Defending champ Faith Lutheran appears to be the favorite and comes into the state tournament on a roll.
The Crusaders (25-5) have won 16 straight and pitcher Brandon Johnson threw a perfect game to beat Chaparral in the Southern I-A regional final. He had 10 strikeouts and threw only 47 pitches in the 14-0 win.
Faith Lutheran didn’t lose a game in the regional tournament and has not lost to a I-A opponent this season. They beat the Cowboys, 2-1, to clinch a state berth.
The Crusaders are led by Logan Etherington, who is hitting .491 with four doubles, four triples and 19 RBIs. Erich Uelmen is hitting .472.
Chaparral (24-9), meanwhile, beat Cheyenne and Pahrump Valley in the regional before losing to Faith Lutheran. The Cowboys beat Boulder City, 3-2, to clinch their state bid.
Offensively, Chaparral is led by Luis Giro, who is hitting .489 with 30 RBIs, 11 doubles, six triples and two home runs. Thomas Crone adds a .483 average with 24 RBIs and eight doubles. He is also 8-1 on the mound sporting a 0.71 ERA with 100 strikeouts and 21 walks in 59 innings.
Tyler Crone is 6-2 with a 0.27 ERA in 51 1/3 innings. He has allowed 20 runs, but only two earned, and has 50 strikeouts and only eight walks.
The Cowboys last state championship came in 1991.