Hawks Flying High; One Win Away From Title

BOISE, Id. - The Boise Hawks are one win away from their sixth Northwest League title in team history. Ryan Harvey continued his red-hot hitting in the post-season and Darin Downs struck out eight to guide the Hawks to a 9-7 victory over Vancouver in their 2004 home finale at Memorial Stadium Tuesday.

Harvey got things started in the bottom of the first with an RBI triple off Canadians starter and losing pitcher Michael Rogers. It was his first career triple in 60 games with the Hawks this season.

A two-out rally in the second would propel the Hawks to their first lead of the night. Alfredo Francisco and Bobby Deeb singled ahead of Jasha Balcom, who lined an RBI single to left and took second on a fielding miscue from Canadians OF Nic Blasi.

On the defensive side, Downs (6-3, 4.83 ERA) was impressive, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing two runs on four hits. It was the fourth time in his last five starts that the left-hander has allowed two runs or fewer.

Downs ran into a first inning jam when he loaded the bases with nobody out. He allowed a leadoff single to Blasi, walked Kurt Suzuki, and then hit League MVP Javier Herrera with an errant pitch. Former Cub draftee Landon Powell hit a groundball to the left side to score Blasi, but it was all Vancouver could muster.

Powell later sailed an RBI double to left center in the fourth to tie the game.

Tied 2-2 in the fifth, the Hawks broke things wide open off Rogers (1-3, 5.40) and right-handed reliever Danielin Acevedo. With one on and one out, Luis Montanez tallied the Hawks' second triple of the night - this time over the head of center fielder Richard Robnett - to score Balcom and put the Hawks back in charge at 3-2.

After Harvey and Kyle Boyer walked, first baseman Ryan Norwood walloped a two-run single to left, scoring both Montanez and Harvey to make it 5-2.

Two batters later, the Hawks broke it wide open when shortstop Jose Rios went the opposite field, doubling to score both Boyer and Norwood to make it an insurmountable five-run lead at 7-2.

The Hawks overcame a seventh inning grand slam by Herrera off right-hander Reid Willett that closed the gap to 7-6. Immediately after Herrera homered in the top half of the inning, the Hawks answered in the bottom half when Harvey and Boyer went back-to-back off right-hander Chris Howay to make it 9-6.

In the ninth, Jerry Blevins closed things out for his second straight save in the playoffs and seventh overall this year. The 2004 draft pick's scoreless streak did come to an end, however, as the right-hander gave up a run on three hits--the first time he'd be scored on since July 23.

With the win, the Hawks are just one victory shy of the Northwest League crown for 2004. They have Wednesday off and will travel north of the border for game three on Thursday night at 9:05 CT from Vancouver. Games four and five, if necessary, would also be played at Vancouver. A pair of staff ace's, Boise's Matt Weber (5-1, 2.95) and Vancouver's Ryan Ford (3-0, 3.66), will start game three.

PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Pacific Coast League playoffs begin Wednesday with the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines hosting the Oklahoma Redhawks. Left-hander Jimmy Anderson (6-5, 4.28) will start for the Cubs against Oklahoma's Ryan Snare (11-6, 4.72) beginning at 7:05 CT. Due to Hurricane Frances, the Daytona Cubs' opening round series with the Vero Beach Dodgers has been moved to Clearwater, Fla. All games in the series start at 1PM CT.

MAMA, I'M COMING HOME: The Lansing Lugnuts open up a best-of-three with division champion West Michigan starting tonight at Comstock Park. Staff ace Carlos Marmol (14-8, 3.20) will start game one for the Lugnuts, who look to win their second straight Midwest League title. Games two and three (if necessary) will be at Olds Park, where it is likely a Cubs affiliate will be playing their final games there for some time. As originally reported by the Peoria Journal-Star, sources Tuesday confirmed that the St. Louis Cardinals were ending their long tenure as parent club to the Class-A Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League, and that the Cubs would be moving their Class Mid-A business back to Peoria for the start of the 2005 season. Peoria was the birth of famous Cub stars Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux, Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston among others. An official announcement won't come until the end of the MWL playoffs, however.

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