With an 8-2 victory over the Vancouver Canadians on Saturday afternoon – before one of the best crowds of the entire season, the Boise Hawks clinched a berth in the Northwest League East Divisional Series – meeting the Tri-City Dust Devils in a Best-of-3 match-up.
A four-run first inning was all the Hawks needed in the win – as Jean Sandoval and the bullpen continued an outstanding run, as Boise has allowed just 12 runs in the last six games, helping the squad win 5-of-6. Ryan Cuneo had four hits, with Reggie Golden and Rafael Lopez each adding three hits in the clincher. Hear Reggie Golden’s eighth inning homer and the final out here (http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/highlights9-3-11.wma).
It’s on to the postseason for the first time since the 2006 season, when Salem-Keizer defeated Boise three games to one (before the split season model was adopted). The Hawks have not won a league pennant since the 2004 season, when they swept the Best-of-5 series with Vancouver.
In the divisional series, Tri-City will be a formidable opponent, as the Hawks have won 4-of-6 against the Dust Devils at Memorial Stadium, but have lost 5-of-6 at Gesa Stadium, though four of the five losses have been by three runs or less. Tri-City has the best pitching staff in the league, with a team ERA at 3.07 – with Christian Bergman, Tyler Gagnon, and Ben Alsup expected to be their three-man rotation against the Hawks, the trio allowing eight runs in 26 innings this season against Boise. The Hawks will have to keep catcher Ryan Casteel, who hit .414 with seven doubles and six RBI against Boise, and OF Brian Humphries, who had two homers and nine RBI against the squad, in check.
Jose Rosario gets the ball for the Hawks in Game 1 – having allowed just one earned run in nine-plus innings this season against the Dust Devils. Knuckleballer Joe Zeller will get the nod at windy Gesa Stadium in Game 2, while Ben Wells, coming off his best outing of the season on Friday night, would pitch Game 3. Top hitters for the Hawks against the Dust Devils this season have been Willson Contreras (11-for-34 with four RBI) and Ryan Cuneo (4-for-11, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI).
Game 1 is set for 6:45 p.m. at Memorial Stadium – with Hawkstown Tonight coming to you live at 6 p.m. on 1350 KTIK-AM. Game 2 (and Game 3, if necessary) will be at 8:15 p.m. (MT), with our pregame report at 8 p.m.
Probable Pitching Matchups – Game 1: Jose Rosario (6-3 3.53 ERA) vs. Christian Bergman (7-5 2.59 ERA), 6:45 p.m.; Game 2: Joe Zeller (2-0 1.95 ERA) vs. Tyler Gagnon (4-3 2.57 ERA), 8:15 p.m. (MT); Game 3 Ben Wells (4-4 4.66 ERA) vs. Ben Alsup (3-3 3.23 ERA), 8:15 p.m. (MT)
In the Western Division, Vancouver earned the second spot in the postseason, after Everett lost their season finale at Spokane, 4-2, giving the C’s the berth with the second best overall record. Vancouver hosts Eugene in Game 1 on Monday afternoon, with Games 2 and 3 in Eugene on Tuesday and Wednesday.
If the Hawks win the divisional set, they would either open at home Friday vs. Vancouver, or open at Eugene on Thursday night.
On another note – congratulations to our media relations intern, Laura Verillo, who will be moving on to a position with the New York Yankees…the team decided to give her a ton of props in a true baseball way – with Shaving Cream Pies after Saturday’s game…luckily, it was captured on video and you can watch it here.
The 3,599 fans that were in attendance – tonight’s game between the Hawks and Vancouver was truly a playoff atmosphere, and were treated to a playoff type game. Rafael Lopez’s two-run homer in the sixth exuded the largest cheers of the season from the hometown crowd, though the collective gasp on Nick Baligod’s RBI double in the ninth was just as dramatic in the C’s 3-2 win.
Luckily for the hometown nine, the playoff scenarios played out perfectly. Tri-City won to clinch the East Division second half title, Everett hung on to defeat Spokane, 7-5, allowing the Hawks to maintain a one-game lead on the Indians in the overall standings with just one game left.
The playoff scenario is simple – if the Hawks win tomorrow’s 11:35 a.m. matinee, they will advance to the postseason for the first time since 2006 – meeting Tri-City in a Best of 3 divisional series, starting Monday. If the Hawks were to lose, they are not out – they must wait hours for the Everett-Spokane game to finish, and if Spokane were to lose – the Hawks would still move on.
For Vancouver, tomorrow’s game is meaningless – their playoff hopes are out of their hands. They are Eugene and Spokane fans – as if either Eugene defeats Yakima, or Everett tops Spokane, the Canadians will move on. Eugene holds a one-game lead on Everett in the 2nd half race, and if Eugene wins the second half pennant outright – Vancouver has the best overall mark. However, if Everett pulls even with Eugene, they will advance, as the Aquasox hold the tiebreaker.
See you bright and early at the ballpark – Listen Live on 1350 KTIK-AM or only through the Minor League Baseball Gameday Audio package.
Two games remaining in the regular season and the playoff picture in the Northwest League is still a bit cloudy, but getting clearer by the day – as the Hawks look to try an advance to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
Boise currently leads Spokane by one game in the overall standings with a record of 35-39 with those two games remaining – needing to finish ahead of the Indians to have a chance at the postseason. A win by Tri-City or a loss by Yakima in the final two games of the season will give the Dust Devils the second half pennant, sending either Boise or Spokane to the Divisional Series, beginning on Monday.
Best case scenario for the Hawks would be the ability to clinch tonight – having Tri-City defeat Salem-Keizer (the only team in the league that has been eliminated from the playoff chase), and Everett defeat Spokane.
The West Division race is also up for grabs, as Eugene leads Everett by one game in the second half standings. If Everett ties or overtakes the Ems, the defending NWL champions will earn the second spot from the West (they own the tiebreak over Eugene with a 4-3 record in the second half against the Emeralds). However, if Eugene finishes a game ahead of the Aquasox – Vancouver can still reach the postseason by winning with the best overall record in the West (same scenario as the Hawks).
POSTSEASON SCHEDULE: The West Divisional series will open with Tri-City on the road at either Boise, Spokane, or Yakima on Monday night – the game to be played at 6:45 p.m. at Memorial Stadium if the Hawks earn the berth. Game 2 (and Game 3 if necessary) would be played at Gesa Stadium in the Tri-Cities, beginning at 8:15 p.m. (MT) each night.
It gets goofy from there – if the Hawks were to win the Divisional series, they would host Game 1 of the Best-of-3 LCS on Friday the 9th, if they play either Vancouver or Everett…if they were to face Eugene, the series would begin Thursday the 8th, at PK Park in Eugene, with Games 2 and 3 at Memorial Stadium on the 9th and 10th (as the University of Oregon is hosting a football game on the 10th). If Boise were to play Everett, Games 2 and 3 would be in Everett on the 10th and 11th, while if it were Vancouver, there would be a travel day, with Games 2 and 3 on the 11th and 12th.
RECORD BREAKERS: Paul Hoilman broke a pair of Boise Hawks’ franchise records on Wednesday night, surpassing the club record for home runs in a season with a second inning blast (listen to the audio call at http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/highlights8-31-11.wma), surpassing Russ Canzler, who it 16 HR’s in 2006. The slugger also became the first player in team history to eclipse the 100 strikeout plateau in a year with a fourth inning K and now has 102 strikeouts on the season – four strikeouts away from Lee Tinsley’s NWL record.
Bryce Shafer locked down his 12th save of the season last night – becoming the first Boise player since Bo Donaldson in 1997 to record more than 11 saves. Jason Wylie had 11 saves for the 2002 NWL champion Hawks.
ALL-STARS: Two Hawks were honored by the NWL this season as postseason All-Stars, as Hoilman earned the nod at first-base, while Rafael Lopez was honored as the top catcher in the league. They weren’t the only former Hawks to earn all-star honors, as Justin Bour and Hak-Ju Lee were named to the Florida State League team, with Canzler earning Most Valuable Player honors by the International League after an outstanding season with the Durham Bulls.
CALL UPS: With the September MLB rosters expanded to 40 men yesterday, a pair of former Hawks earned call-ups from their big league affiliate – as Brandon Guyer has rejoined the Tampa Bay Rays and Jerry Blevins rejoined the Oakland Athletics. A total of six first-year MLB players that previously played for the Hawks have debuted in 2011.