Salem-Keizer Playoff Preview

Those people who say that the Giants minor league system is terrible must not have been watching the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes this season. The Class-A short-season affiliate of the San Francisco Giants routinely blistered through the Northwest League competition this year. Now, with the playoffs set to begin, the Volcanoes will look to clip the Hawks and capture another title.

Led by Co-Manager of the Year Steve Decker, a well-balanced offense, and a superb pitching staff, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (55-21) coasted through the Western Division of the NWL this season. Now the Volcanoes will look to carry that momentum into the championship series against the Eastern Division winning Boise Hawks, the affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Salem-Keizer has won two previous league championships (1997, 2001) since joining the Giants organization nine years ago. They will be vying for yet another title when the series kicks off tonight @ 5:15 pm.

Head-to-Head in 06’:  The Volcanoes won the season series 8-2. Salem-Keizer outscored Boise in those head-to head matchups 49-35.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Strengths:

Salem-Keizer – The Volcanoes pitching staff has been superb this season. They boast a league best 2.95 ERA. The dynamic duo of Adam Cowart (10-1, 1.08 ERA) and Kevin Pucetas (7-1, 2.17 ERA) are the best 1-2 punch as far as starters go in the NWL. John Odom (6-3, 3.05 ERA), Ben Snyder (4-1, 3.73 ERA), and the most recent addition to starting staff, Steven Calicutt (4-1, 1.75), give Salem-Keizer a strong back end of the rotation. These five starters have a combined 31-7 record.

Not to be outdone, the bullpen has been equally impressive. Paul Lussier (4-1, 2.90 ERA) and Adam Paul (1-3, 3.86 ERA) have combined for 13 holds. Paul Oseguera has really come on of late. Since July 22nd, he is 2-1, with a 1.31 ERA and has racked up 24 strikeouts in 20.2 IP. Local product Clayton Tanner and Eric Stolp have also been solid in relief. Closer Juan Trinidad is the anchor of the pen, saving a league best 16 games, with an ERA of 1.52.

While their bats do not receive the hype that the pitching staff does, the Volcanoes have one of the top offensive teams in the NWL. They lead the league in runs (408), homeruns (51), and stolen bases (100), and are second behind Boise with a .264 average.

Boise – The Hawks greatest strength is by far and away their powerful offense. They lead the NWL in hits (687), triples (26), RBI (360), average (.269), slugging percentage (.392), and total bases (1000).

As for the pitching staff, Mark Pewelek leads the starting staff. His record is an unimpressive 3-5, but he has a solid 2.31 ERA and has only allowed 54 hits in 61 IP. William Muldowney has also done a good job in the rotation. He averages nearly a strikeout per inning (42 SO in 43.2 IP), and sports a 2.68 ERA. Jeremy Papelbon (4-0, 1.83), who is the younger brother of Red Sox closer Johnathan, has been impressive out of the bullpen. striking out 50 batters in 44.1 IP. He has also recorded three saves for Boise.

Weaknesses:

The weakness for both teams at times this season has been suspect defense. Salem-Keizer is particularly shaky up with middle, with SS Emmanuel Burriss making a team high 15 errors, and catcher Adam Witter committing 6 errors.

Boise has four players who have committed at least 10 errors on the season, including SS Joshua Lansford, who leads the team with 14.

The Schedule and Projected Rotation

The Northwest League Championship is a best of five series. The Volcanoes have the home field advantage. Salem-Keizer will travel to Boise for the first two games of the series before heading home to host games 3,4, and 5.

***The pitchers listed below are the projected starters and are subject to change

Game 1 – Thursday, Sept. 7th, 5:15 PM at Boise;– Steven Calicutt
Game 2 – Friday, Sept. 8th, 5:15 PM at Boise;– Adam Cowart
Game 3 – Saturday, Sept. 9th; 7:05 PM at Salem-Keizer;– John Odom
Game 4* – Sunday, Sept. 10th; 5:05 PM at Salem Keizer;– Kevin Pucetas
Game 5* - Monday, Sept. 11th, 6:35 PM at Salem-Keizer;– Ben Snyder
*- If Necessary

Who to Watch – Salem Keizer Volcanoes

• Emmanuel Burriss – The Northwest League All-Star has done an outstanding job in the leadoff spot this season of getting on base and setting the table for the rest of the lineup. Once on base, Burriss uses his exceptional speed (35 stolen bases) to wreak havoc on the base paths. He is the Volcanoes leading hitter (minimum of 200 AB’s) with a .305 batting average, 78 hits, and 50 runs scored.

Adam Witter – Since regular catcher Henry Gutierrez-Portalatin went down with an injury a month ago, the sweet swinging lefty has been a potent force with the bat. He leads the team in homeruns (16) and RBI (52). Witter hit for the cycle on August 29th against Vancouver, going 4-4 with a homer and a franchise record 7 RBI.

Adam Cowart – This hurler has been nothing short of phenomenal. His funky sidearm delivery has kept hitters off balance all season long. Cowart leads the Northwest League in wins (10) and has a dental floss thin 1.08 ERA. In 83.1 IP, Cowart has allowed just 51 hits, while striking out 55, and walking only eight. His efforts earned him a spot on the Northwest League All-Star team.

Kevin Pucetas – While most of the talk has centered on Cowart, Pucetas has quietly put together a standout season of his own. In 15 starts, he has compiled an impressive 7-1 record with a 2.17 ERA, with 60 strikeouts in 70.2 IP. Since losing his only game on July 24th, Pucetas has gone 6-0 in his last 8 starts.

Juan Trinidad – The Volcanoes closer has been lights out this season. Trinidad, a Northwest League All-Star, (2-1, 1.52 ERA) has 16 saves, and in 23 IP he has allowed just 18 hits and 4 earned runs.

Boise Hawks

Matt Camp – Although he doesn’t hit for a lot of power, Camp is a hitting machine. He leads the team in hits (87), stolen bases (22) and is tied for the top spot in runs scored (50).

Russell Canzler – Canzler, a Northwest League All-Star, wields a very potent bat. He has a team high 16 homeruns and 60 RBI.

Tyler Colvin – He may be the Hawks best all around player. Colvin has some pop in his bat (11 homeruns), and drives in his fare share of runs with 53 RBI. He also possesses speed (12 stolen bases) and has a team leading six triples. Colvin won the player of the week award for the week of July 17-23 when he hit .367 with 2 homeruns, 11 RBI, and 6 doubles.

Trends: Salem-Keizer enters the playoffs scorching hot having won 25 of their last 29 games. They have also beaten Boise in 6 of the last 7 meetings.



I am a life long Giants fan, who bleeds orange and black. I'm not afraid to speak my mind and express my opinion. Whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say, feel free to write me and let me know what you think at erikegan@yahoo.com

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