BOISE — Here's what every Hawks fan should know when deciding whether to attend Wednesday's game against Salem-Keizer: The top of Boise's pitching rotation is back to work.
The top three starters were exceptional as they pitched in the season-opening series at Eugene. James Pugliese, Paul Blackburn and Loiger Padron combined to pitch 14 2/3 scoreless innings.
"This group of kids is really good," pitching coach David Rosario said.
Boise gave up 15 hits and eight runs in its home opener Monday night, but the Hawks' pitching staff still came into Tuesday's game leading the Northwest League in ERA (2.83), strikeouts (37) and walks (eight). That was largely due to the efforts of Pugliese, Blackburn and Padron.
Those statistics will be inflated after Tuesday's 9-2 loss against Salem-Keizer. Hawks pitchers gave up nine hits in the loss.
Perhaps Pugliese can reverse the pitching staffs' fortunes in his second start.
Pugliese, who will take the mound Wednesday, opened the season by striking out seven and allowing three hits in his five innings of work. The Cubs' 18th-round pick in 2011 went 1-5 with the Hawks last season, but radically changed his mechanics in the offseason.
"So far, so good," Rosario said. "Everything is paying off for him."
Boise hits the road for a Thursday game in Spokane, but savvy fans will want to keep an eye on that game's box score. Paul Blackburn, a No. 1 pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2012, is scheduled to get the start. And if the outing is anything like his Hawks debut, it will be something special.
Blackburn struck out eight batters while allowing just one hit and no walks in his five innings.
"He did everything well," Rosario said. "When you talk about pitching, you talk about tempo, aggressiveness, confidence and conviction. He not only used all of those elements but he threw strikes with every one of his pitches.
"It was the best start I have seen at this level in a long time."
And then there's the 6-foot, 180-pound Padron, the third starter to shine for Boise.
"He's a small-framed guy, but he has pretty good stuff," Rosario said. "He can throw 90 to 93 (mph), and even up to 94 sometimes, with a quality breaking ball and a good feel for the changeup. So he's a guy that doesn't impress you physically, but his stuff's pretty good."
HAWKS DROP SECOND STRAIGHT HOME GAME
Salem-Keizer defeated Boise 9-2 on Tuesday night at Memorial Stadium. The Volcanoes took advantage of seven wild pitches and two errors by the Hawks. It marked the first time since 2008 a Northwest League team recorded seven wild pitches in a game.
Salem-Keizer (5-0) took an 8-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning and cruised the rest of the way.
Hawks second baseman David Bote led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer, and Shawon Dunston Jr. went 2-for-3 to improve his batting average to .471. Boise dropped to 2-3.
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