BOISE, IDAHO --- On the first Saturday of September, the Hillsboro Hops beat the Boise Hawks by a football score --- 14-7 --- ending Boise's playoff hopes. Hillsboro will face Eugene in the best-of-three South Division Series beginning Tuesday.
Boise's only chance to make the postseason was to win the second-half South Division crown outright; Eugene will now make the playoffs as either the South Division champion, or --- if the first-half champion Hops also win the second-half title --- as the club with the next-best season-long record in the South. The Hops have a one-game lead over Eugene and a two-game lead over Boise with one day remaining in the season.
Boise scored four times in the bottom of the first inning, but a two-out Boise error opened the door for the Hops in the top of the second. Ryan Grotjohn's two-run, game-tying single and Luis Lara's three-run, go-ahead home run highlighted a seven-run frame, and the Hops led 7-4.
Hillsboro added four runs in the fourth on RBIs from Grotjohn, Pavin Smith, Tra Holmes and Daulton Varsho. Bryan Araiza, who had singled home a run in the second, added a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Lara singled home another in the seventh.
Tyler Keele struggled in his final start of the regular season, allowing six earned runs in 3.1 innings. But the Hops' bullpen was strong as usual. Juan Torres (2.2 ip), Jordan Watson, Matt Peacock and Breckin Williams (1 ip each) allowed just one run (by Torres) on three hits over 5.2 innings, with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
Lara finished 2-for-5 with four RBIs. Everyone in the Hops' lineup had at least one hit, and eight of the nine had at least one run scored.
Steven Linkous went 4-or-5 for Boise with four singles.
With one day remaining in the season, Hops first baseman Pavin Smith is third in the league in hitting, at .323. Catcher Daulton Varsho is fifth, at .316. Logan Baldwin of Salem-Keizer is hitting .339, and needs three plate appearances in his final game on Sunday to qualify for the league batting title. Salem-Keizer's Bryce Johnson is second at .327.
The Hops enter the season's final day with a chance to win both halves. A Hops win or a Eugene loss gives Hillsboro the second-half title. If Eugene wins and Hillsboro loses on the final day, then Eugene is the second-half champion (by virtue of a their 8-4 head-to-head record over the Hops).
But either way, Eugene will be the Hops' first-round playoff opponent, with Hillsboro holding home-field advantage. Game one of the best-of-three South Division Series will be at Eugene on Tuesday night. Game two will be at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro at 7:05 PM on Wednesday. And, if necessary, game three would also be in Hillsboro at 7:05 PM on Thursday.
If the Hops make the best-of-five NWL Championship Series, they would host games one and two next Friday Sept. 8 and Saturday Sept. 9.
Sunday's regular season finale at Boise begins at 6:15 PM (Pacific), with the radio pregame show beginning at 5:45 on Rip City Radio 620AM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.