Mark Pawelek tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings as Boise defeated visiting Salem-Keizer, 5-1, on Thursday in the opening game of the Northwest League Championship Series.
Pawelek (1-0) surrendered three hits, walked three and struck out three. The 20-year old left-hander, who induced 11 ground-ball outs, said his team's excellent defense shifted his approach on the mound.
"I've always been a strikeout pitcher. But when I have defense like I do now, I love getting ground balls," said the Chicago Cubs' first-round pick in 2005, who had 52 strikeouts over 61 innings in 15 games this season.
"There were so many plays that stuck out," added Pawelek, who noted one by first baseman Russ Canzler and a run-saving diving catch by third baseman Josh Lansford. "My defense was making all the plays."
After getting two outs in the seventh, Pawelek allowed a single to Brett Pill and walked Adam Witter. Jeremy Papelbon came on and ended the threat by getting Michael McBryde to pop out.
"There was one more out to go, I was getting tired, I was just trying to get a ground ball," Pawelek said.
Papelbon, the younger brother of Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, allowed an unearned run on one walk and a wild pitch while striking out two in 2 1/3 hitless frames to earn the save.
Russell Canzler went 3-for-4 with a solo homer to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Steven Clevenger had two hits and two RBIs and Tyler Colvin went 3-for-4 with a run for Boise.
"We're really coming together as a team," Pawelek said. "Two more wins to go."
Salem-Keizer starter Steven Calicutt surrendered three runs on six hits while striking out two in four innings.
Matthew Weston, Pill and Bradley Boyer singled for the Volcanoes, who won eight of 10 regular-season meetings with the Hawks.
Boise hosts Game 2 of the best-of-5 series at 9:15 p.m. ET on Friday.
Ryan McConnell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.