New-look wave looks to repeat
Fresh off its second state championship since dropping down to the state’s second largest division in 2011, the Greenwave baseball team begins its quest at repeating when it opens the year this weekend in the annual Mike Bearman Memorial Tournament in Reno on Thursday.
“What I told the kids is we’re not defending anything,” said sixth-year coach Lester de Braga, the 2015 Coach of the Year. “We’re going to try to win that state title again. I feel confident because of the experience. Seven of 13 have played in two state title games. We’re more experienced and I don’t think they’ll overlook anything. They know how to get the job done.”
For this year’s Greenwave, the lineup looks much different from the club that dethroned – and surprised – Faith Lutheran after the Crusaders cruised past Fallon in 2014 for the state title.
Gone are a handful of seniors who contributed to the team’s second state title since the 1970s.
“We had a big turnover, yet, we still have a big core of boys coming back,” said de Braga, whose team added some flare to the baseball field reminding visiting teams which team is the top dog in the Division I-A. “They’re ready to play. We had a great tryout. Most of the kids performed pretty well and it was tough to make cuts.”
The Greenwave took hits in all phases because of graduation and players not returning this year. On the bright side, however, is that Fallon possessed a strong junior class in 2015.
De Braga feels that this year’s club is ahead of the 2015 squad thanks to work during the offseason.
“We seem like we came in better prepared than in the past,” said de Braga, who’s assisted by his two sons, Trevor and Frank, and Dave Munoz, Eric Clifford and Brett Workman. “We’ve got kids who have been in the program three, four years and know how to prepare in the offseason. Right now, I’m very pleased with how the boys are playing fundamentally and the all-around game. I feel very confident and we’re about two to three weeks ahead at this point last year.”
Returning are outfielders Marshall Coverston, Michael Porras, Cameron Beyer and Trae Workman. Branden Beeghly and Will Bliss return to fight over catching behind the dish, while Kendall Johnson and Kyle Larsen return to the infield. Calvin Greenwell and Clay Davison are back to anchor the pitching staff along with fellow senior Johnson.
Juniors Alex Mendez, Brock Uptain and Jack Swisher are also back. Mendez was the team’s ace last season and a first-team all-state selection as his strong fastball and offspeed combination confused the division’s hitters. Uptain caught behind the plate for most of the season and was a second-team all-North selection. Swisher is the only returning starter in the field as he resumes his position at second.
Mendez was 9-2 with a 2.39 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 64.1 innings with only 16 walks. His nine wins was tops in the DI-A and was third in strikeouts.
“Alex’s kind of grown a little bit and got a little bit bigger. His stamina has improved,” de Braga said. “He definitely picked up velocity and worked on his offspeed. Alex is one of those kids who’s going to get better as he continues to grow and mature.”
Following Mendez in the rotation will be Johnson, who was the team’s No. 3 pitcher last year.
“He’s kind of moved up to the No. 2 spot. He’s been working an awful lot,” de Braga said of Johnson. “He’s really improved and picked up quite a bit of velocity on his fastball. We expect good things out of Kendall.”
At the plate, Swisher is one of the team’s best hitters after he batted .404 with 20 runs, three doubles, three triples and one home run, while Coverston hit .353 with 35 runs, 16 RBIs, six doubles, one triple and one homer.
New to the team are seniors Alex Vest, Preston Monohan and Wyatt Getto; juniors Ricky Delgado, TJ Fagg, Colton Coverston, Nic Sanchez and Owen Palmer; sophomore Jack Wickizer; and freshman Sean McCormick.
De Braga has penciled in Beeghly played third, Larsen at shortstop, Swisher at second and either Delgado or Colton Coverston at first. Uptain will be behind the plate. Roaming the outfield are Marshall Coverston, Byer, Workman, Wickizer and Porras.
De Braga’s excited about this year’s group and said they will have a good balance of power and small ball, speed and fundamentally sound defense.
“We’re always kind of a mix. We’ve gota team very capable of hitting for power,” de Braga said. “We probably got a little better speed than what had last year. I can see that working in their favor with some hit and run and stealing. That’s always been part of our repertoire. I do believe that’s going to play a big part.”
Fallon’s biggest threat to dethroning the regional title will be Elko, once again, as well as South Tahoe, Spring Creek and even Fernley. Although the Indians – like Fallon – lost several key contributors, they also had a strong junior class in 2015. Second baseman and pitcher Kyle Whitted returns after leading Elko with seven home runs and 36 RBIs.
“It’s going to be a pretty strong league,” de Braga said. “You can’t go into any series overlooking anybody at this point in time.”