Wave locked, loaded for regional repeat
Northern DI-A baseball tournament
The Northern Division I-A baseball tournament is today and Saturday at Dayton High School.
Fallon plays at 9 a.m. today in the double-elimination event. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and $3 for seniors 62 and older. Children 8 and under are free.
Follow the action on the LVN’s website and Facebook page.
Riding a hot streak, the Fallon baseball team is clicking on all cylinders at the right time.
The Greenwave, who have won 12 of their last 13 games, rolls into today and Saturday’s Northern Division I-A double-elimination tournament as the No. 1 seed and aims to repeat as regional champs.
Today, Fallon (20-4 league, 20-9 overall) battles fourth-seeded Spring Creek (16-8, 19-9) at 9 a.m. at Dayton High School. Elko (19-5, 22-7) takes on South Tahoe (16-8, 18-11) in the other matchup at 11 a.m.
The winner’s play at 4:30 p.m. today and the losers square off at 2 p.m. in an elimination game. Saturday’s action kicks off at 10 a.m. with the consolation final and the regional title series begins at 12:30 p.m.
Only the top two qualify for next week’s state tournament in Las Vegas.
“We just got to play our game,” Fallon coach Lester de Braga said. “We are not changing anything up. We’re going into this like another weekend. Some of the kids, this will be their third time there and I think that will help us.”
For Fallon, though, the Wave is making their fifth consecutive trip to the regional playoffs and aims to get back to the state championship. Fallon fell last season to Faith Lutheran in the final, but the Wave reloaded is poised to make another run to capture the program’s 10th state title.
“I just see a relaxed group,” de Braga said. “It’s nothing new to them. About two-thirds are football players and they’ve been there (in state) the last two years too.”
Regardless of the historical chase, Fallon opens with Spring Creek, who the Wave opened league play with a 2-1 series win.
“Any series we go in to, we want to get the upper hand,” de Braga said. “It’s no different with the regional. It (a win) gives you confidence and a little momentum swing.”
To beat Fallon, however, the competition must overcome a stacked lineup, a stingy rotation and hard-nosed defense.
Offensively, Fallon is led by Tyler Bagby, Dalton Frank, Jack Swisher, Joe Pyle, Riley Williams, Dylan Jabines and Marshall Coverston.
Bagby and Frank missed most of the season, but have returned to their old form in no time. Bagby is hitting .486 with two home runs, 15 RBIs and five doubles in 11 games.
Frank, meanwhile, provides a big spark as the leadoff hitter and centerfielder. His speed, bat and arm give the Wave a consistent force in the field and at the plate.
Frank has tallied seven doubles in 15 games, while hitting at a .422 clip. In the field, though, his speed takes away would-be extra-base hits in the gaps, while his arm makes runners think twice about taking an extra bag.
Pyle, Williams, Swisher, Jabines and Coverston have been mainstays with experience and a constant approach.
All are hitting above .350, while Swisher, Williams and Jabines provided added pop in the lineup. Swisher and Williams each have three triples, while Jabines leads the team with 21 RBIs and Coverston can swing the stick or advance a runner when needed.
Pyle has five doubles and 18 RBIs under his belt and gives Fallon a steady glove at first base.
But Fallon’s role players off the bench provide another challenge for the opposition. De Braga subs freely and uses his bench to add speed on the bases, a pinch hitter or spot starter for a better matchup.
“Again, it’s probably depth,” he said. “We can go to the bench if someone is struggling to do the same job. We got that option to go to the bench. I don’t see our offensive production dropping off.”
On the hill, Fallon is anchored by the best pitcher in the league and perhaps the DI-A in Alex Mendez.
Mendez is 9-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 61.1 innings and has struck out 73 hitters and walked just 16. In addition, his strike to ball ratio is 2:1 and has allowed a meager 22 earned runs.
In addition, Williams and Chase McElvain provide depth in the rotation and Jabines, Pyle and Kendall Johnson give Fallon a number of options out of the bullpen.
Williams is 2-2 with 36 strikeouts and has allowed 23 earned runs in 37.2 innings.
Out of the pen, McElvain is 3-0 including a shutdown performance against South Tahoe last weekend. He carries a 2.27 ERA in 24.2 innings with 18 strikeouts.
McElvain has been Fallon’s top reliever, although he may get a start in the regional tournament depending on the circumstance. Either way, his rapid improvement gives de Braga plenty to work with.
“Options is what he’s giving us,” the fifth-year coach said. “If we don’t use him in relief, I think he will be our third starter. He’s steadily improved as the season has moved along. He’s earned a starting spot, but if we need him for relief, he will come in relief.”
As a unit, the staff has compiled a 3.67 ERA and has shown its ability to battle and fight out of jams throughout the season.
In a short, yet, compacted tournament a deep, talented staff is a blessing. It keeps the pressure on the opposition knowing they must dig deeper to find pitchers who can match Fallon’s ability.
In addition, a pitcher can only throw 11 innings in four consecutive days, which gives Fallon another advantage of having a deep staff. Elko already forfeited a game this season due to the rule and Mojave was knocked out of the Southern DI-A tournament last year in the same manner.
“Again, this is a three-, four-game series and our pitching has been our strength,” de Braga said. “Everybody is healthy, arm strength is there and we’ve developed a few more pitchers late in the season. I think that is going to be to our advantage.”