BOISE — Down to its final six outs, things looked bleak for the Boise Hawks.
Through 16 innings of the Pioneer Baseball League Championship Series, Boise’s offense hadn’t mustered much and after a two-run blunder in the field, the Hawks looked destined to see their season end in a sweep.
But a four-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning kept hope alive for Boise, as the Hawks came away with a 5-4 win over the Missoula PaddleHeads on Wednesday in Game 2 of the PBL Championship Series to force a decisive Game 3 tonight back at Memorial Stadium.
“We prepared ourselves today to come on the field and do whatever it takes to win this game,” said shortstop Alejandro Rivero, who had three hits and three RBIs, including two RBIs on a single during the rally in the eighth. “We had to win this game, and that’s what happened. We gave it 100 percent to win it.”
Boise erased a three-run deficit late in the game thanks to the two-RBI single by Rivero, then RBI doubles from Wladimir Galindo and Nate Fisbeck. Conner Dand, who pitched two innings in relief, got a strikeout with runners on first and third to end the game.
Boise now finds itself one win away from winning the championship in its first season in the league. First pitch tonight is scheduled for 6:30.
“This is why we play the game and this was our goal,” said Boise manager Gary Van Tol. “This is Boise’s team, I’ve said it all along. These guys just come and play their tails off every night to win ballgames. Our crowd appreciates the effort, that’s why they responded and came out tonight. ... It was loud and they were in every pitch. That’s what’s so great about playoff baseball, every pitch is magnified that much more.”
Things certainly looked bleak after Missoula extended its lead to 4-1 in the top of the eighth inning following a wild pitch by Dand with runners on second and third. After the runner from third scored, things went from bad to worse for Boise, as the throw to home plate by catcher Hidekel Gonzalez was off the mark. The ball dribbled into the infield, allowing Brandon Riley to score from second and extend Missoula’s lead to three.
Things weren’t looking good for Boise offensively at that point, either, as the Hawks were hitting just 10 for 56 (.179) in the series up until that point.
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The Hawks exploded for five hits in the bottom of the eighth.
“All it takes is one guy to get things going,” Van Tol said. “These guys have done it all year.”
Myles Miller and Jason Dicochea opened the inning with back-to-back singles, with each getting their hits with two strikes in the count.
“It was what Myles and Dico did to start the inning, just grinding out two at-bats,” said Fisbeck. “They found ways to get on base for us and start it off for us, and we were able to roll from there. That was probably the spark that we needed all game, and those two started it out for us.”
Rivero, who had an RBI double for Boise in the fourth, came up with another big hit, driving both in off a hit to center. Galindo tied the game on a deep double, which just missed going over the centerfield wall. A groundout moved Galidndo over to third with one out before Fisbeck hit one to the gap to score Galindo.
In the ninth, the PaddleHeads got a double, moved the runner to third on a wild pitch then drew a walk to get runners on the corner. But Dand sat down Dean Nevarez, who hit a home run earlier in the game, with three straight swinging strikes to end the game and pick up the win on the mound.
More important, he moved Boise within one game of its first championship since winning the Northwest League title in 2004.
“It’s everything you can ask for,” said Fisbeck. “That’s why we’re doing this, to win a championship. At the end of the year, it’s the team that’s last standing, and we’re looking to be that team.”