For the first time in the Northern Division I-A, the playoffs will revert to a tournament bracket to decide a regional champion this season.
After many seasons of using a three-game playoff series among the top six teams across the northern region, the baseball and softball teams will compete in a tournament qualifier to determine the top four teams as they will battle for the two tickets to the state tournament next month. Three northern teams qualified for state in the past but with the addition of schools in the Las Vegas region, two teams from each region will compete for the state title.
When Fallon dropped to the DI-A three years ago, the playoff system was revamped to pit the No. 1 seeds from each of the three leagues against the No. 2 seeds. The Lahontan League’s top team (Fallon) hosted the Ruby Mountain’s No. 2 (Lowry) last year while No. 2 Sparks traveled to No. 1 Elko, and No. 1 Truckee hosted No. 2 Fernley.
But 2013 will be much different.
The top eight teams in the North will be seeded at the end of the regular season based on their entire DI-A record (two league series and two crossovers). The eight teams from the Lahontan, Ruby Mountain and Mount Rose leagues will compete in a three-game series: the No. 1 overall team will face the No. 8, the No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6, and No. 4 vs. 5. All series will be played at the higher seed’s school.
Fallon softball coach Bill Archer wasn’t aware of the new format but said it doesn’t change that you need to play your best at the end of the season into playoffs.
“It’s always been the plan to finish real strong,” Archer said. “We have our rivalry game with Fernley toward the end. We figure we can take it one game at a time and win those and get yourself up for the playoffs.”
Fernley (6-0) currently holds the No. 1 seed in softball while Fallon (5-1) is tied for second with Lowry after it fell to the Buckaroos in the Ruby Mountain crossover last month. Dayton, Elko, South Tahoe, Sparks, Spring Creek and Truckee round out the Division I-A North.
Elko and Lowry (6-0) are the top teams on the baseball diamond with Fallon (2-4) sitting tied with South Tahoe and Sparks for fifth. Fernley (4-2) is in third and leads the Lahontan League. Truckee, the defending state champs, sits in fourth place with a 3-3 record, while Dayton and Spring Creek (1-5) round out the division.
Fallon baseball coach Lester de Braga feels the change could still benefit his team because of its pitching. De Braga’s relied on his pitching depth to help carry the team in the playoffs the last two years and it hasn’t failed as Fallon won state two years ago and took third last season.
“I still prefer that,” de Braga said of the three-game series. “The pitching is coming around. We weren’t sharp at the beginning of the season. The pitching is still our strong point.”
After winning all but one game in the crossovers, the Lady Wave faces Dayton this week for their first Lahontan League three-game series before taking on Fernley in two weeks. The baseball team, though, won one game in each of the crossovers but will also begin the DI-A portion of its league schedule against Dayton.
“We’re getting to be right where we want to be this year,” de Braga said. “We’re coming up on the end of the season with games that really matter. It’s a very important part of the season right now.”