No clear favorite in Mack tourney

The Southern Nevada Falcons will be the No. 1 seed in this week’s Connie Mack State Baseball Tournament after they finished the season 20-2. But as coaches of three of the top five seeds see it, there’s no difference between the Falcons and the eighth-seeded Las Vegas Mustangs-Navy (13-9).

“I feel any of these teams can beat anyone on any given night,” said Gino DiMaria, whose Las Vegas Mayhem are the No. 2 seed after finishing 18-3. “Scoring-wise, we’ve given up the least amount of runs, but that doesn’t mean anything; any one of these teams can win it. They all hit the ball well, they’re well-coached, and they have good arms. This is a wide-open tournament.”

The tournament, which begins play at 10 a.m. today, is being held at College of Southern Nevada’s Morse Field in Henderson.

The Falcons, made up of players from Foothill High, boast Nick Cardinale, one of the top pitchers in town, but coach Jason Sirak said he’s been limiting his ace’s pitch count and has been relying on Tyler Van Stone’s arm and Bleigh Madrif’s bat all season.

“We actually have good leadership with five seniors,” Sirak said. “We can swing it and pitch it; it’s pretty much all there right now.”

Sirak is well aware of the dangers of how talented the league can be, as his Falcons were undefeated until the Mayhem handed it to them in an 11-1 rout June 22. Then, after seven straight wins into July, the Falcons were upended 7-6 by the Summerlin Panthers on July 7.

“Judging from what I’ve seen in high school baseball, it’s pretty much anyone’s tournament going into it,” Sirak said. “I feel like the pressure could get to any one of the favorites in a tournament setting, so there are no guarantees.”

Sirak said he believes the No. 5 seed Bulldogs (Centennial) could prove to be dangerous after the way their high school season ended, and with a veteran coach like Charlie Cerrone, he wouldn’t be surprised to see them still playing near the end of the week.

“With the teams improving over the course of the season, and seeing some of the teams that beat the higher seeds over the last few weeks, it will certainly be an interesting tournament,” Cerrone said.

DiMaria likes his team’s chances but said he believes it will come down to who has the better pitching staff, as the postseason tournament is a wood-bat event and favors pitchers.

“If we come to play and get past our first-round opponent, that second round is going to be tough,” DiMaria said. “Either way, that’s a tough draw. Green Valley is hot right now, so it could very well be a sleeper as the No. 3 seed. And if it’s Palo, even though we haven’t played them, I know they’re tough.

“Again, this tournament is up for grabs. It’s one of those years the No. 8 seed could very well look like the top seed.”