Boise manager Gary Van Tol called it a "no-brainer" to insert Justin Marra in the starting lineup Wednesday night. The decision put his team on the brink of redemption.
Marra went 2-for-5 with four RBIs and the Hawks outslugged Salem-Keizer, 11-7, to complete a two-game sweep and advance to the Northwest League Championship Series.
"It feels great. Proud of the guys, for sure," Van Tol said. "They're one step away from their final goal."
Marra is one of four catchers on the Boise roster. He's also a left-handed hitter and the Volcanoes have a host of southpaws in their bullpen. But Van Tol couldn't put the 20-year-old on the bench.
"It's crazy how some guys own teams," the manager said of Marra' dominance against Salem-Keizer. "I don't know how to explain it."
During the regular season, Marra batted .224 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 25 games. In seven games against the Volcanoes, however, he hit .360 with four homers, 13 RBIs, a .960 slugging percentage and a 1.444 OPS.
One night after going 0-for-4 in the series opener as the Hawks' designated hitter, the Toronto native came up big. He doubled in two runs in the first and, after Salem-Keizer rallied for a 3-2 lead, put the Hawks ahead for good with a two-run double in the third.
"We've been able to score runs in their park," Van Tol said. "Our guys have a lot of confidence playing in their park."
Kevin Encarnacion recorded his second straight three-hit game and scored three times for Boise, which will face Vancouver in a rematch of last year's Championship Series. The Hawks had a late lead at home in the decisive third game a year ago before the Canadians rallied to win the title.
"Hopefully, we can take one more step," Van Tol said.
The best-of-3 Championship Series begins Friday night in Boise.
In other Northwest League playoff action:
Blue Jays No. 17 prospect Mitch Nay slugged a three-run homer to power the Canadians to an 11-4 romp over Everett and a sweep of the North Division Finals.
Chaz Frank, Andy Fermin and Nay, the top three batters in the Vancouver lineup, combined for five hits, seven RBIs and four runs scored. The Canadians got four scoreless innings from four relievers to return to the Championship Series. »