Maturity leads to softball title
They defeated a Division I school that made the playoffs.
They scared a couple of California schools in March.
And for the first 12 games of the league season, there was no question that the Lady Wave softball team was the best in the state.
Then the runs stopped coming in and the defense couldn’t communicate, as it overworked the pitching staff and sent Fallon from the top spot to third in the Division I-A.
After winning its first 12 league games, including two on the road against defending state champion Fernley, Fallon ran into a brick wall of problems that began with a home doubleheader sweep versus Lowry. That elevated the Buckaroos to first place and a loss to Fernley followed by two more to Dayton on the road sent Fallon into a midseason funk.
The panic button wasn’t touched although it seemed tempting.
“It took a lot of hard work,” Fallon junior Ali Tedford said. “We didn’t have the perfect season but we made the roadblocks into speed bumps.”
Fallon won its final six league games before going perfect in three regional bouts against Lowry and Fernley to win its second consecutive crown. The offense returned as did its patience when Fallon worked opposing pitchers deep in the count, which resulted in a well-deserved walk or timely hit.
And the defense was back to its stellar form, which showcased several SportsCenter highlights with Izzy Thomas and Kalyn Huckaby stealing hits from Fernley in Saturday’s state championship.
“The defense was very solid,” Fallon senior pitcher Rileigh Ricken said. “We know that anything hit to anyone of us that someone is going to make a play on it. The defense helps a lot.”
Fallon found itself at the right time and was peaking during the playoffs thanks to solid defense, timely hitting and steady pitching, which was preached time after time when Phil Pinder led the program to two straight titles.
The result this year didn’t disappoint as the Lady Wave won the program’s fifth state softball championship with a 4-1 victory over cross-valley rival Fernley at the University of Nevada’s Hixson Park on Saturday.
When Bill Archer was named Pinder’s successor two years ago, he was asked about his intentions with the program. He didn’t have to say much.
“I was going to do the same thing as the staff did (before),” he recalled. “Why do you change something successful? It definitely feels really cool being the leader of this team.”
Playing tougher competition this year was one of the biggest reasons to Fallon’s success as it didn’t have the Division III teams scheduled. Instead, it was three-game series against each Division I-A opponent on nearly every weekend of the season.
“We talked about no gimmie games,” Archer said. “No more Division III teams anymore, all Division I-A games and you needed to win every game. The focus was on Fernley but we got complacent.”
It’s difficult to place your finger on one particular reason why Fallon was the last team standing this season. From the difficult preseason tournament to the revamped league schedule to the midseason hiccup against three playoff-bound teams, the Lady Wave came together and peaked at the right time because of their maturity.
They didn’t want to suffer another championship collapse like last year when Fernley stormed back from a seven-run deficit and scored three runs in the final inning to defeat the two-time defending state champs. It started with the seasoned coaching staff of Archer, Stacey McNair and Brad Dolan and then trickled down to the upperclassmen, beginning with Ricken and Tedford.
And after Saturday, the ultimate goal on the team’s checklist two months ago can be crossed out. Time will fly, seasons will change and the softball field will need to be prepped again but after losing a few seniors including one starter, the Lady Wave will be back just as strong and ready to make a run for the school’s sixth title.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.