Fallon wins Dayton series, eyes top 2 seed
Nothing’s decided yet as the baseball regular season closes this weekend.
Fallon won the series over first-place Dayton on Saturday and entertains Sparks Friday and Saturday with the regional tournament looming next week.
After blanking Dayton, 2-0, on Friday, the Greenwave won Saturday’s first game, 5-4, before dropping the finale, 2-1, at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex.
Fallon improved to 14-7 in league, 1.5 games out of first with Dayton at 15-5, and still has a chance to capture one of the top two seeds and first-round bye to the regional tournament.
“We’re trying to get the one or two seed,” Fallon coach Lester de Braga said. “That’s going to be our goal, our focus this week, to get better and start peaking at the right time.”
The Greenwave rode the arm of its senior ace to win the first game against the best team in the 3A North.
Alex Mendez pitched a complete-game shutout, striking out 11, after relying mostly on his offspeed pitches.
“Coming out, he probably hasn’t really had to rely on his offspeed pitches this year like he did,” de Braga said of Mendez. “Dayton’s a team that likes to hit the fastball. Alex came in and threw about 60, 70 percent offspeed.”
Mendez doubled and Edgar Alvarado, Brock Uptain and Sean McCormick each singled.
Fallon succeeded in a suicide squeeze when Alvarado scored on a passed ball with Uptain at the plate. The ball bounced short and got away from the catcher. The second run came on a throwing error when Jack Swisher reached first as Brock Richardson scored.
In Saturday’s first game, Hayden Strasdin pitched a complete game, while Brock Richardson and Mendez each drove in two runs. Alvarado also had an RBI.
“It was the same situation with facing the same team and he needed to have his offspeed working,” de Braga said of his sophomore hurler. “We turned three double plays in that game, which helped his pitch count a lot. That’s a credit to Hayden. It was very effective.”
Fallon scored five runs in the first two innings before Dayton scored one in the fifth, two in the sixth and one in the seventh. Strasdin intentionally walked two batters in the final frame to load the bases and get the force out to end the game.
De Braga said the pitch count was creeping up late in the game when Dayton strung consecutive hits, including a two-run shot to the gap. But Fallon produced enough offense early to hang on.
“It was based on we put some hits together at the right time,” de Braga said about the offensive effort. “The kids at that point were swinging the bats pretty well. It’s something we’ve been struggling with.”
In the second game Saturday, Chase Irvin picked up the loss before Brenden Larsen went five innings. Jake Wickizer and Mendez led Fallon at the plate with two hits apiece.
“We’re still working, still trying to get to that point where we find out who is our third game starter,” de Braga said. “They were effective. Granted, they gave up two runs between the two of them. They worked themselves out of jams. I was very pleased.”
Fallon, though, stranded 11 runners on base.
“It came down to not getting that key hit at the right time,” de Braga said. “We had runners out there to help our pitching out. We just didn’t get it done.”
Turning to this weekend, it will be the final time that nine seniors will compete in front of the home crowd. Uptain, Swisher and Mendez are four-year veterans, while the rest of the class includes T.J. Fagg, Colton Coverston, Nick Sanches, Owen Palmer, Chase Sanches, Alex Vest and Dalton Kaady.
“We’re going to miss them. Anytime you graduate seniors, it’s a sad day,” de Braga said. “Hopefully they can be successful.”