Lady Wave ready for title chase
The Northern Division I-A softball tournament is at South Tahoe High School, 1735 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Today’s games start at 10 a.m. with No. 1 Fernley and No. 4 Dayton. No. 2 Lowry and No. 3 Fallon follow at noon.
Ticket prices for both days are $10 per adult, $5 for students, $3 for seniors (62 and older) and free for children 8 and under.
To say that this year’s Division I-A regional softball tournament features one of the toughest fields in a long time would be an understatement.
Including the three-game series regional format before the first double-elimination tournament last season, Northern Nevada will be treated to a two-day extravaganza at Lake Tahoe where any one of the four teams can knock off the other and advance to state. The top two teams will advance to next week’s state tournament in Reno.
“It’s the toughest field in the North we’ve seen in a few years. It’s open to anybody,” Fallon coach Bill Archer said. “It’s wide open for anybody who’s’ going to step up their game in the playoffs. “
Top seeded Fernley takes on No. 4 Dayton to open up the tournament at 10 a.m. today at South Tahoe High School, while No. 2 Lowry and No. 3 Fallon follow at noon. The consolation bracket begins with a 2 p.m. matchup followed by the championship bracket semifinal at 4 p.m. The consolation final is at 10 a.m. Saturday followed by the championship game at 12:30 p.m.
Fernley, the defending state champ, grabbed the top seed after finishing 22-2 in league play, with its two losses coming to Fallon early in the season. After Fernley, it’s crowded with Lowry and Fallon, each sitting with 19-5 league records but thanks to a series win over the Greenwave last month, the Buckaroos are the No. 2 seed.
Fallon, which won the regional crown but lost the state championship in 2013, picked up the third seed while Dayton snuck in with a 15-9 record to take the final playoff berth.
Fallon entered a dry spell after opening the season with 12 straight league wins.The offense stalled and the defense couldn’t help the pitching as the Greenwave lost two consecutive series against Lowry and Dayton, which bookended Fallon’s only loss to Fernley.
Rileigh Ricken, who leads Fallon in pitching and hitting, said the team has come back together smoothly and just in time for the playoffs.
“We have really bonded together and all got on the same page,” the senior leader said. “We all have our goals lined up and are working together to achieve our goal. With those losses, we saw what we needed to work on and became stronger as a squad. We really have come together and I can’t wait to see how we perform this weekend.”
Ricken leads the team with a .566 batting average, eight home runs and 39 RBIs after breaking the school’s career home run mark last month. She also boasts a 1.33 ERA and 9-4 record in 100.1 innings this season.
Megan McCormick has contributed nicely at the plate with a .464 average, two home runs and 33 RBIs, while Kayla Buckmaster is batting .432 with a home run and 22 RBIs. Buckmaster has solidified herself as the No. 2 pitcher with a 6-3 record and 2.22 ERA in 47.1 innings.
Fernley, meanwhile, enters as the favorite with its two-loss league record, 13-game league winning streak and state championship to defend. Even though it’s been almost two months since the Vaqueros lost a league game, the playoffs provide a second chance.
“Fernley’s always tough. They’re going to make you play. They’re one of the top teams,” Archer said.
Fernley’s the best hitting team in the league as it leads with 280 runs scored and 28 home runs including 12 from Serena Olson, who also leads the team with 43 RBIs. Kelsie Callahan has belted five home runs and driven in 31 while Bailey Henderson and Cheyenne Brewer have each sent four over the fence. Brewer leads the team with a .628 average followed by Olson’s .529.
“We know we have the two losses early in the season on them,” Archer said. “They’re going to pressure your pitcher. I don’t think we’re ever surprised by that. Their motto is to get the runners on early and often. You have to stay with that pace.”
While softball’s a game that can count on one solid pitcher to carry them through the postseason, Fernley spread the wealth this season with Taelyne Phillips logging in 55.1 innings (7-1, 1.77 ERA, 40 K), Courtney Dunn throwing 50 innings (7-1, 1.68 ERA, 27 K) and Hayley Mull rounding out with 45 innings (8-1, 1.94 ERA, 20 K).
“The bottom line is they’re going to be a tough team,” Archer added. “You have to be prepared to step up at the plate and compete with them. I don’t think anyone’s under estimating them as the top seed.”
If Fallon wants to see Fernley for the fourth time this season, it needs to worry about Lowry, which swept a doubleheader in Fallon to snap the Greenwave’s perfect 12-0 league record.
“We don’t take any team lightly,” Archer said. “Any team in playoffs has earned that. We all go through the ups and downs. It’s going to be the team that shows up and makes the least amount of errors and puts the ball in the play that will come out the victor.”
What Lowry lacks for pitching compared to the rest of the field, it makes up for at the plate.
Three players are hitting above .400 and account for 87 of the team’s 199 RBIs. Kylee McClellan (.437), JaeCee Munger (.412) and Ere Higbee (.408) each have paced the Buckaroos this season and have hit two home runs.
In the circle, though, Taylor Schwartz (9-4) leads the team with a 2.82 ERA in 94.1 innings pitched while Alyssa Dendary (8-0) has relied on the offense to help with her 3.39 ERA in 43.1 innings.
The biggest surprise and arguably the dark horse of the tournament is Dayton, which relies heavily on Makayla Shadle, the team’s top hitter and league’s best pitcher.
“She’s done an awesome job,” Archer said. “She can compete on any team in Division I-A or Division I. I know she’s got a career after high school.”
Shadle has fanned 293 opponents in just 141.1 innings this season and has a miniscule 0.69 ERA. Shadle is hitting .462 with 20 extra base hits and 25 RBIs, while Kalee Alexander, Shalia Powell and Nichole Vienneau each have homered. Powell leads the team with 27 RBIs.
“Our kids are looking forward to a good time,” Archer said. “There’s four teams and you have a 50 percent chance at being one of the teams going to state. The kids are absolutely stoked and excited to be in postseason.”