Boise Hawks back into playoffs, remain confident

The Hawks went 7-5 against South Division champion Salem-Keizer in the regular season.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comSeptember 3, 2013 

Boise outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr. runs out an infield single against Hillsboro on Monday at Memorial Stadium in Boise. The Hawks completed the regular season by equaling their longest losing streak, yet feel confident about their playoff series against NWL South Division champion Salem-Keizer.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

  • Encarnacion wins batting title

    Boise outfielder Kevin Encarnacion finished the regular season with a .355 batting average. Encarnacion, who had Monday off, went 20-for-44 (.455) in his final 10 appearances and had a 12-game hitting streak in late August. He was one of several Hawks players who were among the statistical leaders after Monday’s regular-season finale.

    RBIs: Yasiel Balaguert 48 (1st); Jacob Rogers 47 (2nd)

    Home runs: Balaguert 8; Rogers 8; Encarnacion 8 (T-2nd)

    Runs: Carlos Penalver 43 (2nd); David Bote 39 (T-3rd)

    Hits: Rogers 72; Danny Lockhart 72 (T-2nd)

    Walks: Rogers 45 (1st)

    ERA: James Pugliese 2.32 (2nd)

    Team rankings: The Hawks finished first in batting average (.269) and home runs (50), and third in wins (41).

  • South Division series schedule

    Tuesday: Salem-Keizer at Boise, Game 1, 6:45 p.m.

    Wednesday: Boise at Salem-Keizer, Game 2, 7:35 p.m.

    Thursday: Boise at Salem-Keizer, Game 3, 7:35 p.m. (if necessary)

    Tickets

    Prices are $14, $12 and $7. Tickets can be purchased at the Memorial Stadium box office, at BoiseHawks.com or by calling 322-5000.

— The Boise Hawks finished the regular season on a five-game losing streak Monday night.

The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, closed their schedule on a five-game winning streak.

It would seem the two teams are heading in the opposite direction as they prepare to play each other in the first round of the Northwest League playoffs.

And yet …

“I have a good feeling we might win,” Hawks outfielder Rony Rodriguez said. “I have a good feeling.”

Rodriguez and the Hawks will try to turn those good feelings into wins, beginning with Game 1 on Tuesday night at Memorial Stadium.

First pitch is scheduled for 6:45, and Paul Blackburn will take the mound for the Hawks.

“It all starts with Blackburn,” manager Gary Van Tol said. “To me, he’s the key, especially with what’s happened in the last five losses.”

The Hawks’ pitching staff gave up 49 runs in those losses, and pitching coach David Rosario pinned most of the blame for that on the starters.

“Our bullpen has been doing a great job,” Rosario said. “It’s the starting rotation that has been failing.”

Blackburn has been the exception in his past couple outings. Two starts ago, he faced the Volcanoes and pitched five shutout innings.

“I know their hitters,” said Blackburn, who went 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 46 innings. “I’ve thrown well against them. … Salem doesn’t want to play us. We’ve played good against them the whole year. The offense comes around when we play them, so it will be a good series.”

Despite Blackburn’s confidence and Rodriguez’s intuition, if Las Vegas oddsmakers were handicapping the series the Volcanoes would certainly be favored. Salem-Keizer won the first- and second-half titles in the Northwest League’s South Division, and finished with the league’s best record.

“I think they’re the best team in the league,” Van Tol said. “You look at their record (47-29) and what they’ve done all year. … They’re deep, they’re older and they’ve been playing very well.”

Boise lost 10-6 to Hillsboro on Monday night to equal its longest losing streak of the season.

But Van Tol pointed out the Hawks (41-35) don’t have to look too far in the past to realize they can compete with the Volcanoes. Boise won three straight games at Salem-Keizer from Aug. 21-23.

“I think there is a sense of confidence against them,” Van Tol said.

Rodriguez said he and his teammates are just as capable of going on winning streaks as losing streaks. Boise had winning streaks of seven, six and five games.

“After we go on a four-, five-game losing streak, we go on a (long) winning streak,” Rodriguez said. “We’re not worried right now.”

Overall, the Hawks went 7-5 against the Volcanoes. Interestingly, the road team might have the advantage in the series. The Hawks went 5-1 at Salem-Keizer, and the Volcanoes had a 4-2 record in Boise.”

“We’re excited for the opportunity,” Val Tol said. “We’re definitely looking forward to seeing how our guys respond.”

Notes: Salem-Keizer is expected to start Chase Johnson (3-2, 4.17 ERA) in Game 1… Boise will be making its third consecutive playoff appearance. The only other time the Hawks qualified for the postseason three times in a row was from 1993-95. … Salem-Keizer eliminated Boise the previous three times the teams met in the postseason (1998, 2001, 2006). … Everett, the first- and second-half winner in the North Division, will face Vancouver in the other divisional series.

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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