Fallon softball nabs regional title
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After a shaky first inning, Rileigh Ricken was all business.
And what a perfect time to pitch the game of her life.
The senior hurler retired the final 14 batters after giving up a pair of runs early, and the Lady Wave softball team’s patience at the plate paved the way for their second straight Northern Division I-A regional crown after defeating Fernley, 4-2, for the second time in two days.
“I wasn’t too worried,” said Ricken, a senior who pitched all three games of the regional. “I knew that our bats are strong. We were pumped up all weekend.”
A three-run second inning combined with solid defense and Ricken’s pinpoint control helped Fallon edge its rival at South Tahoe High School.
Fallon, which defeated Fernley in the championship semifinals, didn’t need a second game this time around after Fernley came back in last year’s tournament to steal the momentum and win state one week later. Nevertheless, the Lady Wave is riding a nine-game winning streak heading into this week’s state tournament in Reno.
“We’re a more different team,” said Fallon coach Bill Archer, whose club has rebounded with a long winning streak since a midseason hiccup. “We’re peaking at the right time into playoffs and state.”
Fallon entertains Boulder City at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday at Bishop Manogue, while Fernley takes on Pahrump Valley at 4:30 p.m. The double-elimination tournament picks up on Friday at Manogue before concluding at the University of Nevada’s Hixon Park at 9 a.m. on Saturday for the championship.
After spotting the cross-valley rival a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Ricken was nearly perfect for the rest of the game as patience became the team’s biggest weapon at the plate.
Courtney Cross’ walk followed by Ali Tedford’s blooped single into right field and Nicole Mariezcurrena’s fielder’s choice loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning with Fallon trailing 2-1. On the second pitch of her at-bat, Izzy Thomas was plunked to tie the game before Ricken reached on an outfielde error to give Fallon the lead.
Megan McCormick’s single scored Mariezcurrena but Thomas was thrown out at the plate. Thomas, who hobbled into the dugout with a season-ending leg injury, scored the team’s first run of the game in the first inning on a bobbled attempt at Hannah Frank’s ground ball.
“Sometimes the bats don’t come around as fast,” McCormick said. “The intensity of the team was a lot higher.”
Staked with a two-run lead after two innings, Ricken allowed one single in the third and then was lights out, retiring the last 14 Vaqueros. Ricken struck out seven, walked two and gave up four hits in the win as Kailey Daggitt’s lineout to Tedford at shortstop capped off the comeback victory.
“Rileigh’s pitching like she’s a Division I player and she’s been a leader both on and off the field,” Archer said.