Hawks Talk: Division Champs

With their sixth consecutive win on Friday night, the Boise Hawks of the short-season Northwest League clinched the Eastern Division and will meet Giants affiliate Salem-Keizer in the league's championship series beginning Thursday.

The Hawks now have an insurmountable seven-game lead over second place Tri-City with only five games to play in the regular season. The team improved to 42-29 after beating the Dust Devils, 10-5.

"Everything's pretty much come together for us," Hawks manager Steve McFarland said after the game. "We've picked ourselves up."

The Hawks started the year 2-9, but went 20-10 in July and 18-10 in August to pull atop a division that features no other clubs above sea level. The Hawks have gone 24-7 in their division this season.

Deryck Lewis hit a grand slam and 2006 first-round draft pick Tyler Colvin hit two home runs in Friday's win over the Devils. Five Hawks players totaled multi-hit nights as part of a 13-hit attack by the team's offense.

For Colvin, it's the fifth consecutive game the outfielder has gone yard in. He has 14 RBIs in that span and 52 overall this season with 11 home runs.

"He's gotten hot, which is really good to see," McFarland said. "Everybody's pulled together this week."

The Clemson product is batting .279 through 60 games and ranks second only to teammate Russ Canzler for most RBIs in the league.

Center fielder and fellow ACC alum Matt Camp picked up three hits atop the order on Friday and has likewise hit safely in six consecutive games. Camp, the Cubs' 13th-round selection from North Carolina State earlier this year, has the most hits in the Northwest League with 87 overall.

"This team started off struggling and it was pretty rough at first," Camp said after the game. "Once we got past those first few weeks, we've had good team camaraderie and everything has been wonderful. We're playing good together and the chemistry we have shows how well we've played."

Camp is batting .303 in 70 games. He's stolen 20 bases in 30 attempts.

Josh Lansford picked up two hits and has hit safely in all four games since returning to the lineup on Tuesday night. The sixth-round selection this past June hyper-extended his left elbow on Aug. 18 at Vancouver.

"I've never played for a team that's been this hot before," the Hawks' third baseman said. "We've got guys contributing off the bench and out of the bullpen. Our starting nine has been unstoppable for the past week. All this just feels great."

"My first couple of games back, I felt really sore. Right now, I think I'm probably close to 100 percent," Lansford said of the elbow.

The Hawks have four games remaining at Boise's Memorial Stadium this season. They'll meet Tri-City again Saturday and Sunday to close out the regular season portion of their home schedule and then will host Salem-Keizer for the first two games of the league championship series next week.

McFarland knows that winning at the novice levels of the farm system often sets the precedent for future success.

"I think it's huge," he said. "When I had the club in Boise for a few years earlier, those guys ended up carrying it into the Midwest League and into Daytona. A lot of those guys are in the big leagues right now. They've learned how to win."

With Salem-Keizer -- the league's hottest team all season -- on tap in the best-of-five championship series, the Hawks know almost better than anyone the difficult task that lies ahead.

"We have not done well against them this season," said McFarland, whose team finished 2-8 against the 52-19 Volcanoes. "They pretty much dominated this league from top to bottom all year long. They've got a good club, but anything can happen in the playoffs."

In Camp's case, a win over the Volcanoes would be cause for bragging rights. He played with one of their pitchers in college: Gib Hobson.

"I know a little about them," Camp said of Salem-Keizer. "It's going to be interesting to see how it pans out because they've had our number. But I feel like we're playing good right now and hopefully we can roll into the playoffs and win three out of five."

The Hawks have won six Northwest League championships in franchise history and now 11 division titles. They became a Cubs affiliate in 2001.

PHOTO: Gino Aguilar/Boise Hawks Baseball Club

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