Sun is Shining in Everett

The first half of the Northwest League season has come to an end – with the Eugene Emeralds (by default) and the Tri-City Dust Devils earning a spot in the League Divisional Series in September.  Eugene backed into the playoffs, their first in over a decade, despite dropping two games to Everett – earning the spot when Salem-Keizer scored nine runs in the final three innings on Monday night in Vancouver to stun the Canadians.

For the Boise Hawks – the record was wiped clean and the squad has had a sort of rejuvenation, opening the second half with a pair of tight wins.  The 5-4 victory at home over Spokane gave the Hawks their first series win since a three-game sweep of Yakima at the beginning of July, while the series opening win at Everett ended a five-game road losing streak.

The Hawks have used a power surge of late to get the fans excited – hitting at least one home run in each of the last four games.  It marked the first time since the 2008 season that the squad homered in four-straight (August 1-6), part of a season that saw the team hit 42 long balls.

Paul Hoilman is starting to climb the ladder on the all-time home run list for the franchise, after hitting his tenth bomb of the
season last night – tying Steve McQuail of Vancouver for the league lead.  Hoilman is one of 24 players in Boise Hawks history to hit 10-or-more homers in a season and the first since Kyler Burke hit ten in 2007.  Joining Hoilman and Burke in the 10 homer club are Micah Hoffpauir (2002), Condor Cash (2001), Corey Slavik (2001), Jason Coulie (2000), Dave Kennedy (1993), and J.R. Phillips (1990).  Six players have hit 11 homers in a season – Tyler Colvin (2006), Casey Child (1997), John Donati (1994), Mike Wolff (1992), Oreste Marrero (1989) and Jeff Mace (1987), while three have hit 12 in a season – Donnie Hood (2002), Jeff Wagner (2000), and Matt Curtis (1996).  The big boppers in franchise history all had great years – as Brian Dopirak (2003), Kevin Collins (2002), Jason Dewey (1997), and Mace (1998) all had 13 homers, Ryan Harvey (2004) and Ryan Kane (1995) each had 14, Todd Greene slammed 15 homers in 1993, and Russ Canzler hit the franchise best 16 home runs during the 2006 season.

I recall a conversation in the clubhouse in Vancouver with Desi Wilson about hitting slumps and streaks – him stating that a bad-hop single for Rafael Lopez, which broke the Florida State product out of a 3-for-22 slump, might be a turning point.  Boy has it, as Lopez has hit safely in 13-of-14 games, raising his batting average from .237 to .327 – including a trio of three-hit games.  Hoilman has also hit safely in six straight games, with Jesus Morelli logging hits in five-straight.

The bullpen arms – when they are used (due to the piggy-back rotation that the Cubs have employed this season), have been solid of late.  Dustin Fitzgerald has been money at home, having not allowed an earned run in 9 1/3 innings at Memorial Stadium, while Colin Richardson has provided solid middle relief in getting to closer Bryce Shafer, who has converted back-to-back saves after that ninth inning disaster in Spokane.  Willengton Cruz and Yao-Lin Wang continue to pitch well, both among the league leaders in ERA and strikeouts.

THE FROGS: No rain so far this year in Everett (after Jody-Gate in 2010), but the fans continue to ask why I call the Aquasox the Frogs…the picture is of Webbly their mascot (a frog) – and it has been their secondary “nickname” for over a decade.

MOVIE REPORT: Trainer Bob Grimes has decided to make it a learning experience for the team on the final couple road trips of the season – as the squad will watch baseball movies for education.  On the eight-hour trip to Everett, it was Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, a pair of movies that more than half the squad hadn’t seen.  It was interesting to hear the comments from the staff, since many of them played in the ballparks featured in the movie.

BUMPS AND BRUISES: Joe Zeller returned to the mound last night after 17 days due to soreness in his shoulder, while both Zeke DeVoss and Reggie Golden have been held out due to minor injuries.  DeVoss (knee) and Golden (ankle) both took batting practice yesterday and may be in the line-up on Thursday.

DRAFT NEWS: Though nothing has been made official by the Chicago Cubs, but sources have said that the Hawks parent club has made a killing on draft signings over the past week – including picks in the Top-15, which may end up being Boise Hawks either later this season or next.  When the Cubs make the news official, we’ll have it to you.

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