A look back to 2012…
A season that started so slowly, as a 12-25 start in the first half – including 10 losses by one-or-two run margins, as the Hawks limped into the second half. (But did have a big highlight, as Rock Shoulders hit a MAMMOTH homer at Salem Keizer)
But some key roster moves made immediate impacts – most look directly at Dan Vogelbach, who crushed 10 homers in a half a season with the Hawks and gave the clubhouse some much-needed life. I remember sitting on the side of I-84 in early August – Vogelbach’s first true road trip in minor league ball, and could see that this young kid has something special – charisma. He hit a game-winning home run in Spokane that I don’t think has come down, then followed by hitting six homers in four games at Everett – as the Hawks completed a string of 12 wins in 15 games.
But it wasn’t just Vogelbach – Gioskar Amaya broke the franchise record for triples with 12; Stephen Bruno just flat out hit, winning the league batting crown; Marco Hernandez hit over .300 in the second half of the year; Willson Contreras came up big with a pair of walk-off hits; Rock Shoulders went into a late season home run tear (including this grand slam in the NWL East Division Series); Trey Martin played nearly flawless defense; and Jeimer Candelario had a knack for knocking in runs.
But as much as the offense blitzed the NWL in the second half of the year, the pitching got some much needed support. Tayler Scott, Jose Arias, and Felix Pena all became dominant #1 starters in their own right, while lefty Nathan Dorris and righty Eddie Orozco became late-inning stoppers – something the Hawks desperately didn’t have in the first half of the season.
Then throw in the addition of first-round picks Albert Almora and Pierce Johnson late in the year – Almora (who hit a HR in his first game with the Hawks) giving the Hawks the best defensive outfield in the NWL and coming through with the biggest at bat of the season with his two-out triple in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the East Division series in Yakima (with the Hawks trailing 4-3), turning the series completely around. Johnson looks to be something special – a devestating cut-fastball and was outstanding in his final start against Vancouver.
A 7-4 trip on the long grind during the Western Idaho Fair locked up a postseason berth for a second-straight year (here is the final out that clinched the pennant) – including their first road sweep since the 2004 season, and a 3-2 win over Yakima in Game 3 of the East Division series sent the Hawks into their first NWL Championship series since 2006 . It was an epic series – Boise squandering a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning in Vancouver to lose 10-7, but rallying three times in Game 2 at home, ending it on a Contreras walk-off single in the ninth, to set up a winner-take all title tilt. Facing NWL Pitcher of the Year Taylor Cole, the Hawks jumped on the board on a Vogelbach three-run homer in the first and led 7-5 with two outs in the eighth inning. However an error prolonged the inning, and the C’s scored seven unearned runs and took the title with a 12-9 victory.
It didn’t take away from the job Bill Buckner did with the youngest team in the league (one night in Yakima, the Hawks oldest player on the diamond was younger than the youngest player on the Bears squad). The Hawks led the league in runs scored (410), averaging over 5.5 runs a night, hits (733), doubles (140), triples (29), home runs (64), RBI (368), slugging percentage (.426), and batting average (.278).
It was a fun ride – one that will take Mark Johnson to Kane County to try and rekindle the magic with this squad.