State championships: Fallon faces No. 1 Boulder City
LVN Editor Emeritus
Coming off a second-place finish at last weekend’s NIAA 2019 Northern League Baseball Championship in Elko, the Greenwave players are ready to face their next challenge: Southern Nevada’s No. 1 team, Boulder City at the state tournament.
Fallon, which was runner-up to Truckee on Saturday, faces the Eagles at 6:30 p.m. at Mesquite High School. The game will be broadcast live on KKTU 99.5 FM and Network 1 Sports with Larry Barker calling the action, and Eric Clifford providing the color.
Fallon, which comes into the state tournament with a 22-12 record, rebounded from a series loss to North Valleys during the last weekend of April in which the Wave made 11 errors in a doubleheader. Since that weekend, the Wave took the final regular season series from South Tahoe and won its first two games at regionals before falling to Truckee, 3-2. After a dramatic 10-run sixth inning against Elko in the fourth game, Fallon stayed alive with a 10-6 win in the double-elimination tournament.
The Wave defeated Truckee in the first game of the championships, 6-5, before losing the second game, 14-3.
Coach Lester de Braga, whose last state title came in 2015, said patience and determination became a winning ingredient for Fallon at the regional championships.
“These kids showed character coming from a 6-0 deficit,” de Braga said of the Elko win. “Put the ball in play, and things will happen … and they happened in our favor.”
In the first game, though, North Valleys led the Wave 2-1 and then Fallon tied the Panthers. Edgar Alvarado’s two-run home run late in the game gave Fallon the opening-round win.
“It was a fastball down the middle of the plate,” said the Fallon catcher.
During the first game against Truckee, Fallon trailed 2-0 and eventually tied the game on Alvarado’s ripped a two-run home run off starting pitcher Jack Streit.
De Braga said the clutch home runs couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“Everything changes the momentum with one swing of the bat,” he added. “Actually, he has the attention of all teams. They’re afraid to pitch to him. Behind him is Shaw Lee (first baseman) who can hit.”
Alvarado said hitting in front of Lee made pitchers think. If he reached base, then Lee has the ability to move the runners.
“It helped this year having Edgar hit before me,” lee said at practice this week. “If they didn’t want to pitch to him, they had me behind him. If he got walked, they had to pitch to me. I think pitchers are scared to face either one of us.”
Alvarado’s unofficial batting average for the season was in the high .400s, while Lee flirted with the high .300s.
Alvarado said he’s confident the team will play well at the state championships. He said the team is confident, something the coaches and players all believe. Fallon will also need its pitchers to play the games of their lives.
De Braga said pitchers Brenden Larsen and Hayden Strasdin bring a solid one-two punch. Last year Larsen was a first-team all-state pitcher, and the year before Strasdin earned the same honor.
“They can beat anyone,” de Braga said. “They have great velocity and off-speed stuff. It’s been a great year for both of them.”
Larsen, who threw against North Valleys in the first game at regionals, didn’t see much action after that. He was pleased with his game.
“I kept the ball low and limited their hits,” he said. “We had good defense behind me and hit the ball well.”
Strasdin hurled the entire game against Spring Creek. Both are rested for this weekend. Before leaving Fallon, no announcement had been made about which pitcher face Boulder City.
After Larsen and Strasdin, de Braga said he can turn to Lee, who’s been a No. 3 starter, and Chase Irvin, who can either start or come in as a reliever.
“On any given day, these guys can perform,” de Braga added.
Beside their pitching, Larsen, Strasdin and Irvin can play multiple roles on defense and each also hits well. With pitchers limited to 110 pitches, however, de Braga said Fallon used quite a few hurlers to advance to the championship game.
“They will play a huge role for us at state,” de Braga said of his corps.
Fallon also sports one of the 3A’s strongest defenses. When Larsen isn’t pitching, he and Lee anchor the infield at third and first base, respectively, with Nate Galusha, Irvin and Sean McCormick filling in at shortstop or second base.
Brock Richardson patrols right field, and Tommy McCormick and Bryce Larsen round out the outfield.
Each of the players brings a lethal bat to the offense, and the McCormicks, along with Richardson, give opposing pitchers nightmares with their ability to steal bases.
De Braga knows the greatness of Boulder City’s baseball program. The Eagles have been to the state tournament six out of the last nine years.
“They love to hit, and they’re not. Small-ball team,” de Braga pointed out. “If we play our small-ball game, it puts them on the backs of their heels.”
According to the Boulder City Review, the Eagles knocked off their rival Moapa Valley during the regional tournament last week and finished the regional tournament with a perfect 4-0 record.
“Right now these guys are focused on the prize,” head coach Ed McCann told the Review. “I knew we had the makeup of a good ballclub, but there were times I questioned if this was really going to be our season. After the two wins against Moapa Valley, I’m not questioning anymore.”
Trailing 7-2 to Moapa Valley in the bottom of the seventh inning in the Southern Region championship, Boulder City rallied for an 8-7 win.
“Fueling the comeback effort, sophomore Deacon Lopez (3 for 4) and Brendan Thorpe (2 for 4) drove in a pair of runs each, while Newby (1 for 3), Bahde (1 for 4) and sophomore Troy Connell (1 for 4) batted in a run each,” reported the Review.
Connell won the game after throwing three scoreless innings.
The Eagles defeated Pahrump Valley 7-3 on May 8. Blaze Trumble hit a three-run home run, Lopez had three hits with a pair of RBIs.
Coming into the tournament, Truckee will be the team to beat, however, since the Wolverines won last year’s Northern 3A title. The senior-dominated Truckee crew faces Moapa Valley today at 4 p.m.
Th losers of today’s games play Friday at 1 p.m., and the winners bracket is at 4 pm. The loser of game four plays the winner of the late afternoon game at 7 p.m.
The championship is slated for Saturday at 10 a.m.
The Fallon players are loose and ready, de Braga said. “The game is mental. Be confident and you can do it. Be mentally tough.”
De Braga said the past two weeks since the North Valleys series has made the players feel more at ease: “Go out and have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourselves.”