Surprising many, South Whidbey made a serious splash at the state 1A baseball tournament in 2014, and the Falcon sluggers are prepared to hammer their way back to the top this season.
The Falcons reached the second round of the state tournament before being eliminated by Woodland 1-0 in a defensive duel. Woodland’s ace pitcher proved to be the difference. The taste of the state tournament experience lingered for the handful of returning seniors.
“We’re hoping to make it at least back, but we want to get to Yakima and the final four,” said Falcon senior Trent Fallon, referring to the championship game’s location. “We know there are a lot of good teams.”
Several questions linger about the health of the Falcons. Early in the season, a sickness kept several players out of practices and injuries limited others.
Pitching depth was a major strength for South Whidbey in the past season. In 2014, Falcon pitchers recorded a combined perfect game and a combined no-hitter.
Heading into this season, head coach Tom Fallon thought he had eight pitchers to throw on the mound. Now, with the first week of games around the corner, he has six and may be missing one of his aces: senior Brent Piehler. The other, Trent Fallon, injured his knee and will see playing time on the field but may not be as effective hurling from the hill.
In Tom Fallon’s third season running the baseball program, the team is looking to build upon its past successes. At the heart of the program is Fallon’s mantra of “TEAM FIRST,” the words hammered into the team’s dugout at South Whidbey High School. For players like Trent Fallon, Tom’s son, that means that if the coach calls for the cleanup hitter to lay down a bunt, he needs to drop a bunt. Also, staying out of trouble and maintaining their grades is as much a priority as is hitting a .350 average.
“We do have higher expectations,” Trent Fallon said.
“We know if we get caught at a party we’re getting kicked off the team,” he added. “We all take it really seriously.”
Absent at times from past Falcon teams, this year’s unit features a trio of power hitters: junior Ricky Muzzy, senior Brent Piehler and senior Mo Hamsa.
“There’s Brent,” Fallon said after Piehler launched a scrimmage pitch to deep right-center field, bouncing to the fence.
Combined with the speed of players such as junior Charlie Patterson and sophomore Connor Antich, South Whidbey’s scoring may take off this season.
“This is probably the fastest team I’ve been on,” Fallon said, adding that at least nine varsity players can steal a base.
Having reached the state tournament, South Whidbey can expect a strong challenge from each team in the Cascade Conference. New to the league this season is Cedar Park Christian, which was eliminated from the first round of the 2014 state tournament. Also new will be King’s, which assembled a baseball team this season for the first time. Sultan also dropped to 1A, creating a four-team race for limited District 1 playoff berths.
In years past, South Whidbey suffered a letdown loss that either typified or galvanized the season. Trent Fallon remembered a few of those games from the previous seasons but knew this year the Falcons would persevere.
“We normally hit a rough patch but we get past it,” he said.
More than the 1A competition, South Whidbey has its sights set on a Cascade Conference championship. Challenging the Falcons are Granite Falls and Archbishop Murphy, both 2A teams.
“I think all the teams in our league know they can’t look over us,” Fallon said.