BOISE -- The Tri-City Dust Devils have been to the Northwest League playoffs before.
They've even won Game 1 before, both against Salem-Keizer in 2007 and 2009.
But never like this.
The Dust Devils made their first foray into the
2011 postseason a dominating one, shutting out the Boise Hawks 6-0 in Game 1 of the NWL Divisional Playoffs at Memorial Stadium.
Tri-City can wrap up the series with a win today, when the Hawks visit Gesa Stadium for Game 2 at 7:15 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, would be at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Gesa Stadium. Tickets are still available for both home playoff games at 544-8789.
"This is the first year we've won one on the road," Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio said. "Now we have two chances to win at home. Hopefully we can get it done (today)."
If Tri-City wins today, it would face Eugene or Vancouver in the best-of-3 NWL championship series. Eugene won its divisional series opener 8-3 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
If the Emeralds win, the NWL championship series would begin Thursday at PK Park in Eugene.
Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) would be Friday and Saturday at Gesa Stadium.
Tri-City starter Christian Bergman mowed down Boise hitters through seven innings, carrying a no-hitter through 51/3 and picking up his first professional playoff win. He allowed two hits and walked one to grab a share of the Dust Devils' 11th shutout this season.
"We definitely came in wanting to get a win. We were confident with Bergman on the mound," said Dust Devils first baseman Tyler Massey, who drove in two runs with a pair of doubles. "Maybe we've been spoiled by how successful (Bergman) has been all year. This puts us in great position with the next two at home."
Bergman, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, has pitched in big games before. As a senior at
St. Francis High School in Altadena, Calif., he pitched in the CIF Southern Section championship game. A year later, as a freshman at UC Irvine, he started against Oregon State in the College World Series semifinals.
He lost both of those games. Monday against Boise, he pitched as if he had something to prove.
"I definitely wanted to come out and command the strike zone," said Bergman, who threw 88 pitches -- 62 for strikes. "(Juan) Crousset hit a big three-run homer, and momentum stayed in our corner."
Massey drove in Tri-City's first run in the first inning, driving a double to the left-field wall to bring home Brian Humphries. That alone would end up being enough to win, but Crousset came up with two on and one out in the third and put the game out of reach.
The 6-foot Dominican native picked on a 2-0 high fastball from Hawks starter Jose Rosario and drove it over the wall in the deepest part of center field for a 4-0 lead.
"That's the biggest home run of my career," Crousset said.
Craig Bennigson relieved Bergman in the eighth inning and struggled a bit, loading the bases with one out. With the shutout in jeopardy, Kenneth Roberts came in to face Boise pinch hitter Dustin Harrington, a right-hander.
Roberts, a left-hander named to the NWL All-Star team along with Bergman, pushed the count to 1-2 before getting Harrington to swing and miss at a nasty 80-mph curveball that broke in at his ankles. When the next batter, Rafael Lopez, flied out to third baseman Jayson Langfels in foul territory, the Dust Devils' dugout exploded in cheers.
"There was a big reaction. That was a chance for them to get back in the game," Ocasio said. "It took Roberts six pitches to get it done."
Will Rankin pitched the ninth inning and allowed a leadoff single to Ryan Cuneo. But after striking out NWL home run leader Paul Hoilman on four pitches, Rankin got Reggie Golden to ground into a game-ending double play.
Notes: Today's Game 2 matchups: Tri-City RHP Tyler Gagnon (4-3, 2.57 ERA) against Boise RHP Joe Zeller (2-0, 1.95). ... Attendance was announced at just 977 fans, partially because the Hawks had one day to prepare their fans for the NWL playoff series.
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; email@example.com; Read his Walk in the Park blog at sportstricities.com.