The Boise Hawks lost 14-3 to the Hillsboro Hops on Sunday night at Memorial Stadium.
It was their fourth loss in row.
But after the game, they had reason to celebrate: They're going to the Northwest League playoffs.
"I told the players, 'Congratulations, look at the overall season and what you've done,'" manager Gary Van Tol said. "You can't take away any of that."
Boise was assured of its playoff spot when the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes routed the Eugene Emeralds 15-1 on Sunday. That win clinched the second-half South Division title for the Volcanoes. Salem-Keizer also won the first-half title, so the team with the next-best overall record in the division qualified for the postseason.
That team is the Hawks. Even with Sunday's loss, Boise sits at 41-34, while Hillsboro is 33-42.
"We didn't get in the way we wanted to," Hawks first baseman Jacob Rogers said. "Salem kind of helped us out tonight, but we'll come out (Monday) and get that good feeling going and end the season with a win."
Boise will be trying to win a Northwest League title for the first time since 2004. Last year's team was four outs from winning a championship before Vancouver rallied for the win.
"I got the feeling of being in the playoffs last year," second-year catcher Justin Marra said. "Unfortunately, we came up short in the last game. We were that close. And this year we get a second chance."
But if the Hawks are going to do anything with that opportunity, they're going to have to play with a lot more focus than they did in Sunday's loss.
The Hawks gave up 18 hits, committed three errors and a few more mental miscues as they drew a smattering of boos for their lackluster play.
"Sometimes you get in pressure situations and guys are pressing too much," Van Tol said. "I think these guys can now relax and take a deep breath and maybe not put as much pressure as they've put on themselves the last week."
There are a few reasons the Hawks faithful can have some hope in the first round of the playoffs.
The Hawks went 7-5 against the Volcanoes this season, and had a 5-1 record at Salem-Keizer, where the second and third games (if necessary) of the first-round series will be played.
"We're going up against Salem, who in my opinion is the best team in the league," Van Tol said. "But we've matched them pretty closely, head to head, especially on the road, at their place. That first game is going to be important, but we know we've gone there and played very well."
Also, the Hawks have been nothing but streaky this season. Sunday's loss capped their third four-game losing streak of the regular season. Conversely, Boise has had win streaks of seven games, six games, five games and four games (twice).
"That's what I was talking to (teammate David) Bote about today," Rogers said. "We go through these spells when we're not playing as a team. But then we figure it out and start playing together and we tear it up and go on a little run. Hopefully, that will start (Monday), and we carry it into the playoffs."
But history isn't on Boise's side. The Hawks have faced Salem-Keizer three times in the Northwest League playoffs, and the Volcanoes won all three times.
Still, Van Tol said the experience will be good for the players, win or lose.
"It doesn't happen a lot," he said. "Some guys play a long time and never get a chance in the minor leagues or even the big leagues to taste what the postseason is all about."
Chris Langrill: 377-6424