Emotions ran high at Memorial Stadium as the Boise Hawks played the Vancouver Canadians in the first game of the Northwest League Championship Series on Friday night.
Boise batting coach Bill Buckner was ejected in the third inning. Then Vancouver outfielder Chaz Frank was tossed in the fifth.
As for the baseball: The streaky Hawks won their third straight playoff game, and are one win away from claiming their first league title since 2004.
Boise, which ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak, defeated Vancouver 5-0 to take the lead in the best-of-three series that shifts to Canada for Games 2 and 3, if necessary.
You couldnt ask for a better situation right now, Hawks manager Gary Van Tol said. That first game is critical, because its your only home game, and in a short series its a huge lift. You couldnt draw it up any better, and I couldnt be any more proud of how the guys handled all the emotions, all the pressure, all the drama. That was a huge difference in tonights ballgame.
Dillon Maples, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, got the start for the Hawks. Maples, who came into the game with a 5-2 record and 2.14 ERA, pitched into the seventh inning. He left after striking out seven and giving up six hits without a run.
He did an outstanding job, and we couldnt ask for anything more out of him, Van Tol said.
While Maples was doing his part, Boises batters were doing theirs. Shortstop Carlos Penalver led off the third with a triple, and catcher Lance Rymel went to first after being hit by a pitch.
That brought up outfielder Kevin Encarnacion, who lingered outside of the batters box longer than home plate umpire Jeff Gorman found appropriate. Gorman then called an incredulous Encarnacion out. That brought Buckner, the longtime major-leaguer, charging to home plate. It didnt take long for Gorman to toss Buckner.
Ive never seen that before, Buckner said.
After that skirmish, second baseman Danny Lockhart hit an infield single that scored Penalver and gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
That was it for the scoring for a few innings, but not the ejections. First base umpire Adrian Gonzalez ejected Vancouvers Chaz Frank for arguing a call in the bottom of the fifth.
Theres a lot of emotions out there for everybody, Van Tol said. The players are young, the umpires are young but I thought the guys did a great job of holding their composure.
It took some composure from outfielder Yasiel Balaguert to keep the Hawks hopes alive in the sixth inning. But he battled at the plate and managed to run out a grounder for a single with two outs. A few batters later, David Bote broke the game open.
(He) just ambushed that fastball, and drove it in the left-center gap to score two, Van Tol said.
Botes hit capped a three-run inning and gave the Hawks a 4-0 lead.
That kind of sealed the deal for us, Van Tol said.
Rymel capped the scoring with a solo home run in the seventh.
Were going to celebrate this victory, but these guys know its not over yet, Van Tol said.
But with three straight wins, its looking more and more like a team that runs hot and cold might be at its hottest at the right time.
Only one more (win), Bote said. Theyre going to be tough at their place, so weve got to work hard for all 27 outs.
NOTES: Two players were added to the roster. Pitcher Matt Iannazzo split time between Boise and Kane County this season. He had four saves and a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings with the Hawks. He relieved Maples on Friday and retired three straight batters. Also joining the roster was infielder Jesse Hodges.