Boise Hawks players have learned a lot this season, including the most important lesson of all.
They learned how to win, manager Mark Johnson said.
The Hawks were 13-25 in the first half of the Northwest League season, but clinched the second-half East Division title Saturday. They enter the final homestand with the best second-half record in the league (21-12).
Boise last won a division title in 2006 and a league championship in 2004. The Hawks qualified for the playoffs last season, but were eliminated by Tri-City in the first round.
Theyll open this years playoffs against Yakima, which won the first-half division title.
But first theres a five-game series against Everett at Memorial Stadium.
A lot of things can go bad in five days, Johnson said. Its about staying focused and how hard theyve worked the whole season. Youve just got to keep going at it and you cant take any days off. And they havent all year, so its just another thing they need to learn how to do.
Here are some players to watch as Boises season winds down:
Bruno has made his mark by playing three infield positions, all three outfield positions and has also served as a designated hitter. He takes a 17-game hitting streak into Tuesdays game and leads the league in batting average (.345) and on-base percentage (.424). The University of Virginia product is second in runs scored (49) and hits (81) and fourth in doubles (16).
Amaya leads the league in runs scored (54) and is third in batting average (.303). Maybe most impressively, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound second baseman is second in slugging percentage (.494). He also leads the team with 13 stolen bases.
The big slugger might be making a run at the league MVP if he had played the whole season with Boise. Instead, he had a slow start in extended spring training and didnt join Boise until the first game of the second half. Hes tied with Rock Shoulders for the team lead in home runs (nine) and is two away from the league lead. Hes batting .320 with a .616 slugging average, although those numbers dont show up in the league rankings because he hasnt had enough at-bats.
FIRST ROUND VS. YAKIMA
Game 1: at Boise, 6:45 p.m. Monday
Game 2: at Yakima, 8:05 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4
Game 3 (if necessary): at Yakima, 8:05 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5
Playoff tickets are on sale for $6 to $14 and are available at boisehawks.com or at the teams box office (more info at 322-5000).
The East champion will face Everett (first-half winner of the West), Vancouver or Eugene (tied for first in the second half at 20-14). Boise would open on the road and would host the second and third games (if necessary) Sept. 8-9.