BOISE, IDAHO --- The Boise Hawks --- in need of a three-game sweep of the Hillsboro Hops to capture the South Division second-half title --- won the series opener 3-2 on Friday night at Memorial Stadium. But the bigger story was the rapidly spreading wildfire in the Boise foothills, burning several miles beyond center field --- in full view of many of the spectators.
It was the bottom of the fourth inning, and there was still a hint of light in the sky as the first wisps of smoke rose from the foothills. Within moments an orange glow appeared, and the fire appeared to spread quickly. Flames could be seen throughout the game, while sirens appeared to indicate more and more emergency vehicles heading to the scene.
The fire was still burning, and appeared to be gaining strength, well after the game ended.
The game itself will be remembered as one of missed opportunities for Hillsboro. The Hops were given 10 baserunners --- eight walks, a hit batsman, and an error --- and were able to cash none of them in.
Boise, on the other hand, capitalized on uncharacteristic wildness by Hops starter Jhoan Duran. The Hawks drew leadoff walks in each of the first two innings, and both scored (on a first-inning sac fly by Danny Edgeworth and a second-inning double by Cole Anderson).
Duran left after two innings, replaced by Luis Castillo.
Camden Duzenack homered with two out in the third to cut the Hops' deficit to 2-1, but Boise pulled further ahead on a sacrifice fly by Sean Bouchard in the bottom of the fifth. The Hawks led 3-1, but lost an opportunity for more in the same inning when Kevin Ginkel came in to strike out Luis Castro with the bases loaded. Ginkel would work the final 3.1 innings for Hillsboro in his best outing of the season, retiring all 10 hitters he faced and striking out six.
Duzenack doubled with two out in the seventh, and Araiza singled him home to make it 3-2. But outside that, the offense continued to sputter. The Hops loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning --- on a walk, a hit batter and an error --- but a double play off the bat of Tim Susnara ended the threat.
A leadoff walk in the top of the ninth turned out to be harmless after Duzenack, the next batter, grounded into a double play. Araiza and Luis Lara singled, but Pavin Smith grounded out to end the game.
Ethan Westphal was the winning pitcher for Boise. Michael Bunal worked out of jams the final two innings to earn his seventh save.
Eugene's 12-4 win at Salem-Keizer on Friday means Boise can only make the playoffs by winning the division. Translation: Boise has to win the final two games of the year. If they do, they're in.
The South Division Series opens on Tuesday. The Hops will be either in Boise or Eugene. Game two is on Wednesday at 7:05 PM at Ron Tonkin Field. (And, if necessary, a series-deciding game three will be at home on Thursday, also at 7:05 PM.)
The regular season wraps up with two more in Boise, Saturday and Sunday nights. Both games begin at 6:15 Pacific time, with the radio pregame show beginning at 5:45 each night on Rip City Radio 620AM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.