Mark Johnson has led the Hawks to the postseason in each of his two years managing the short-season Class A team.
But Johnson, who played 17 seasons of professional baseball, knows better than to take trips to the playoffs for granted.
Ive known guys who have played 10 years in the minor league and never made it to the playoffs, Johnson said. So you enjoy it, and relish it.
Johnsons team will take the field at 6:45 p.m. Monday in Game 1 of the Northwest Leagues East Divisional series at Memorial Stadium. Boises opponent will be the Yakima Bears, who won the first-half title with a 21-17 record. The Hawks won the second-half title with a league-best 24-14 record.
Its been a blast in the second half, utility player Stephen Bruno said. This game is all about learning, and weve been learning the ropes of minor league baseball. But weve kind of realized that we have a great team and we have a chance to win this thing.
But the Hawks learned last season that the playoffs can end in a hurry, when they got swept out of the postseason in two games. The first-round series is a best-of-three games format. If Boise advances, it would play another best-of-three series against the West Division winner either Vancouver or Everett for the championship.
We have a great opportunity, Bruno said. Weve got to keep playing like weve been playing in the second half, and if we do that we should have a good run here.
Heres what Hawks fans need to know before the first pitch Monday night.
GAME 1 STARTERS
Yakimas Blake Perry will start against Boises Pierce Johnson.
Perry, a right-hander, went 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA this season. He earned a complete-game victory against Tri-City in June. The 6-1 win was the first time a Bears pitcher had tossed a complete game since 2006, and it was the only complete game in the Northwest League this season.
Johnson, also a right-hander, was selected 43rd overall by the Chicago Cubs in Junes draft. He joined the team Aug. 11 and has a 4.50 ERA in four starts. He has been limited to just two innings per start, and that will likely be the case again Monday night.
I feel like I could go a little longer, but Ive thrown so much already this year, the Missouri State product said. I want to help the team any way I can, so if its two innings Ill do whatever.
Johnson will be relieved by Jose Arias, who went 4-2 with a 3.25 ERA in 13 starts.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: BOISE
1. Stephen Bruno: Bruno played as many as six positions in the field during the regular season. He finished the season on a 22-game winning streak and won the league batting title with a .361 batting average. Hes been amazing, Hawks hitting coach Bill Buckner said. Every night, hes hitting the ball hard and getting on base.
2. Dan Vogelbach: The first baseman, listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds, has been a force since joining the team midseason. He finished the regular season batting .322 with a .608 slugging percentage. He hit 10 home runs in 37 games, while the league leaders hit 12 during the course of a full season. Vogelbach instilled a winning attitude when he joined the team, and hes excited about Boises chances. Weve got a pretty good shot at winning the whole thing, he said.
3. Tayler Scott: The native of South Africa doesnt have the experience of some of the other pitchers on the staff, but he earned the start in Game 2 of the first-round series. Hes been the most consistent guy that weve had through the whole season, pitching coach David Rosario said of Scott, who has a 5-1 record and a 2.52 ERA. Hes done a great job and its been a great experience for him because its the first time hes pitched in professional baseball.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: YAKIMA
1. Kevin Medrano: The middle infielder finished second to Bruno in batting average. His .341 average was the fourth-highest in Bears history, and his 90 hits were the third highest on Yakimas all-time single-season list. He was named the teams player of the year.
2. Blake Perry: The Game 1 starter is clearly Yakimas pitching ace, and he could set the tone in a critical game for Boise, since the next two games of the series would be played at Yakima, if necessary.
3. Daniel Watts: If the Bears have an advantage, its because of their pitching. Watts, the projected Game 2 starter, had the fourth-best ERA (2.23) among the league leaders. He went 4-5 in 15 starts.
East Division playoffs
Game 1: Yakima at Boise, 6:45 p.m. Monday
Game 2: Boise at Yakima, 8:05 p.m. Tuesday
Game 3: Boise at Yakima, 8:05 p.m. Wednesday (if necessary)
Championship series (if Boise advances)
Game 1: at West Division winner, Friday
Game 2: at Boise, 6:45 p.m. Saturday
Game 3: at Boise, 6:45 p.m. Sunday (if necessary)
HAWKS PLAYOFF TICKETS
Prices range from $6 to $14 and are available at boisehawks.com or at the box office (call 322-5000 for more information).