The Boise Hawks received a little message from Oakland A's reliever Jerry Blevins before they opened the Northwest League Championship Series against Vancouver on Friday night.
Blevins, an alumnus of the Hawks' 2004 title-winning squad, told the players they should appreciate their opportunity because even if -- like him -- they make it all the way to the big leagues, they're never guaranteed another ring.
In the series opener, it appeared the team took that message to heart.
Dillon Maples scattered six hits over 6 1/3 innings as short-season Boise blanked the Canadians, 5-0, in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Finals.
Hawks manager Gary Van Tol relayed Blevins' message to his team before the game and said the players were receptive.
"He talked to our radio guy this afternoon and wished us luck. He won the championship here in '04 and I told our players, 'Jerry just wanted to let you guys know you're close to something special. He said, 'That's the only time I had a chance to win a championship, that first time in 2004, and I'm here in the big leagues. You never know if you'll get that opportunity again,'" Van Tol said.
"Whether it's short-season, Double-A, Triple-A, the big leagues, it's a precious time. And the guys are making the most of it. I'm really proud of the way they've responded here since the playoffs responded."
Maples (1-0) kept Vancouver in check, striking out seven batters while walking two in the longest outing of his professional career. Matt Iannazzo and Zack Godley combined for four strikeouts over 2 2/3 hitless innings.
"Huge game. It's our only game at home, it's a short series, so to get that first one is big," Van Tol said. "We have to go on the road and head up to Vancouver, which is always a tough place to win, and it would have been very difficult to win two up there. We did what we needed to do at home and give us a little momentum. It's great to see [Maples] step up and give us that type of start in that type of environment."
Boise, which lost five straight to end the regular season, has won three in a row following a first-round sweep of Salem-Keizer. Van Tol said that, despite being one win from a championship, the team was remaining level-headed.
"They're excited, but it's not over. They're not getting too far ahead of themselves," he added. "I think that's kind of a testament to the group we have. We're kind of on a mission and they're taking it one step at a time, taking care of the moment."
Carlos Penalver led off the third with a triple and scored on Danny Lockhart's groundout to give Maples the only run he needed. David Bote capped a three-run sixth with a two-run double and Lance Rymel homered in the seventh.
Brenden Kalfus was the only member of the Canadians with more than one hit, going 2-for-3.
Paul Blackburn, who tossed seven shutout frames to beat Salem-Keizer in the first round, will take the hill for the Hawks in Game 2 on Sunday in Vancouver.