The Boise Hawks play their first home game tonight, coming off a series that saw them in win one/lose one mode in Spokane over the first four days of the season. They lost one last night—7-6 when the Indians walked off with a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth. The Hawks had an interesting stay there, from a rainout on Opening Night to the “Luke, I Am Your Father’s Day Game” on Sunday (which actually became two games, as the rainout was made up). They came out of it all 2-3. Boise now christens its 30th anniversary season against the Eugene Emeralds in Memorial Stadium, where the Hawks have played for 28 previous summers. You can say this about the Hawks: they are hitting some home runs. They’ve knocked four out of the park in their first five games after hitting just 24 homers all of last season.
The featured Emerald tonight will be Joe Martarano, who just 3½ months ago topped the Boise State football depth chart at middle linebacker. Martarano, of course, left the Bronco program to devote all of his time to pro baseball. It was now or never, he felt, especially after his 2016 season ended with a broken leg in November. The Fruitland High grad departed a day into spring football. Martarano played some outfield in addition to first and third base in extended spring training, and the Cubs organization is giving him a look there. He was the Ems’ designated hitter in the first two games of the season, sat out the third, then started in leftfield in the fourth. Martarano didn’t play in last night’s series finale against Vancouver. At the plate, he’s batting .273 and has one RBI.
Borah High grad Stephen Fife will be introduced today as a member of the Seibu Lions, becoming (to our knowledge) the first Idahoan to play in the Japanese major leagues. Fife had been pitching in Triple-A for the Miami Marlins organization, going 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 12 starts for New Orleans. “I am honored to have the opportunity to play in NPB (the Japanese majors),” said Fife. “I am looking forward to learning Japanese baseball, Japanese culture and making new discoveries.” Fife has not pitched in the bigs since a one-game call-up with the Dodgers in 2014. In 18 career appearances with L.A., he was 4-6 with a 3.66 ERA.
Other notes from the diamond: Boise High grad James Hoyt was front-and-center on Sunday Night Baseball while pitching in relief for the Houston Astros. Hoyt drilled two batters, the second one Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was hit squarely in the back and was none too happy about it. Pedroia was not in the Boston lineup last night in Kansas City. Hoyt’s ERA has ballooned from 1.46 to 5.09 over his last nine appearances, a stretch that has seen him allow 11 runs in 10 2/3 innings. Also, both MLB Draft picks out of the College of Idaho have been assigned to minor league clubs. Righthanded Riley O’Brien will pitch for the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League, and southpaw Zach Draper will be in rookie league with the Arizona Indians.
Being ranked in ESPN.com’s Top 25 comes with bonus exposure for Boise State. That’s hard to get for the Group of Five these days. The latest from the site is, “Who is the future coach from each Top 25 team?” Here’s writer Kyle Bonagura’s contribution for No. 24 Boise State: “Cornerback DeAndre Pierce’s dad, Antonio Pierce, is the head coach at California high school power Long Beach Poly and spent nine years in the NFL. DeAndre Pierce arrived in Boise last year, and coaches praised his ability to quickly pick up a solid understanding of the defensive scheme.” I like that choice. Pierce saw increasing snaps on defense as last season progressed and showed he has the “it” factor. Pierce is also a unifying force on Twitter, in case you haven’t noticed.
Former Boise State star and current Dallas Cowboy Orlando Scandrick was a guest yesterday on ESPN’s show “Highly Questionable.” It was an interesting interview. Host Dan Le Batard opened with, “How much of a culture shock was it going from California to Idaho?” Scandrick talked about the weather in the winter, and how Idaho seemed to be “five years behind.” But Le Batard was almost baiting Scandrick into saying he regretted going to Boise State, asking him if he ever considered leaving. Scandrick wouldn’t go there, going into detail on the value the program brought him. His only regret, he said, was not applying himself more in school. “I did some stupid things,” Scandrick said. “I made some stupid mistakes.” He maintains he is mature now, and his kids are his No. 1 priority.
If you haven’t seen the North Fork Championship VI video on the race website, it would behoove you to check it out. Jacob’s Ladder on the Payette River was everything the event-record 3,900 CFS of whitewater would dictate. Several kayakers in the field of 30 didn’t make it to the bottom of the course after being pushed into the side of the river, where they chose to simply exit the rapid. Dane Jackson of Walling, TN, became the first-ever repeat champion as King of the North Fork. Meridian’s Alec Voorhees finished seventh.
One of the local sports items of the weekend was Eagle High standout Janie King committing to the Idaho women’s basketball program. King is a 6-foot guard, pretty good size for somebody up top in the women’s game. I liked her quote in the Statesman about the Vandals: “Their style is three-point shooting, and that’s kind of my style of game.” Well, King comes from good bloodlines. Here’s the rest of the story. Her dad, Brian, is the highest-percentage three-point shooter in Boise State history. Has been for 27 years. Brian King connected on 45 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc from 1987-90, 2½ percentage points better than the next most accurate guy, Tyler Tiedeman a decade ago. If only that one had gone down against Michigan in the 1988 NCAA Tournament…
This Day In Sports…June 20, 1982:
Finished for the day, Jack Nicklaus is tied for the US Open lead and is watching Tom Watson, who has two holes to play at Pebble Beach. Stuck in the heavy rough on the par-three 17th, Watson chipped the ball downhill some 16 feet. Incredibly, it dropped in the hole for one of the most dramatic shots in golf history. Finishing strong, Watson also birdied the 18th to win his first Open by two strokes.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)