By MICHAEL MROZIAK email@example.com
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Fans at Coca-Cola Field in downtown Buffalo had to wait a while longer for their traditional “Fridaynightbash” fireworks. For the first time this season, the Buffalo Bisons needed extra innings to decide a game.
Those among the 10,249 fans who stayed for the ending, many of them Boy Scouts and families who were on hand for an overnight campout on the field, were treated to a big finish when Andy LaRoche doubled to center in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Bisons a 4-3 win over the Louisville Bats.
“He had a couple of good pitches and then I was trying to stay short with it,” said LaRoche of his extra-innings showdown with Bats pitcher Mike MacDougal, who surrendered the walk-off winner. “He threw one down the middle, good thing I connected on it. It’s a good thing he (Louisville centerfielder Billy Hamilton) couldn’t track it down.”
Hamilton gave chase but was not quite fast enough to make the play, allowing Mauro Gomez to round thirds base and bring home Buffalo’s winning run.
The 12th inning thriller was made possible because twice Buffalo could not take advantage of loaded bases to bring home the go-ahead run, in the eighth and ninth innings. The Herd wouldn’t panic, though.
“Those guys just keep battling every single day,” said Bisons hitting coach Jon Nunnally, who spoke at the team’s postgame media briefing in place of the ejected manager Marty Brown. “We’ve got the utmost confidence in all these guys.”
Buffalo took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when catcher Josh Thole smacked a one-run shot over the right field fence.
Louisville responded in the top of the fifth when Josh Fellhauer doubled, and then advanced to third on Konrad Schmidt’s single. Billy Hamilton then grounded to Buffalo shortstop Mike McCoy, who touched second base for the first out. His throw to first was off the mark, allowing Hamilton to reach safely while Fellhauer came home to score the game-tying run.
In the bottom of the fifth, Buffalo put two runners on base and up to the plate came Thole with one out. After working his way to a full count, Thole singled down the third base line to bring Moises Sierra home, putting Buffalo back in the lead.
The lead was short-lived, as Mike Hessman tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the sixth with a blast to left on a 3-2 pitch that Buffalo’s outfielders already knew was gone, as they took just a couple of strides then watched the ball sail high over the left field fence and into the tall screens.
Louisville took the lead in the top of the eighth when wild pitches hurt the Herd. Feliz Perez started the inning by hitting a single to get on base, then advanced to second on a wild pitch by Buffalo’s Alex Hinshaw. Following a sacrifice bunt that advanced Perez to third, he scored when another Hinshaw wild pitch fell into the dirt and got away from catcher Josh Thole. Thole picked up the ball and tossed it back to Hinshaw, who ran to home and tried to tag Perez out but the Bat beat the tag, and Louisville was ahead, 3-2.
To add insult to injury, Hinshaw was ejected seconds later for hotly arguing the play with home plate umpire Will Little.
The Bisons weren’t down and out just yet. Mauro Gomez started the bottom of the inning by hitting a single to get on base. Thole then walked. Andy LaRoche was next to the plate and hit a solid shot to right field, where Louisville’s Denis Phipps booted the ball on the play, giving LaRoche the opportunity to take second as Gomez scored the tying run.
Ramon Ortiz is scheduled to start on the mound for Buffalo today while Pedro Villarreal will pitch for Louisville.
Unfortunately, that was all the offense Buffalo could muster. After the Bats intentionally walked Ryan Langerhans to load up the bases, Mike McCoy was called on a third strike that sent Marty Brown to home plate to contest the call. He, like Hinshaw, was ejected soon after. After Jim Negrych struck out for the second out of the inning, up to the plate stepped Anthony Gose, who had already left three men on base earlier in the game.
Gose went down on a third strike, leaving a total six men on base and the game tied.
Buffalo again loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but failed to produce the game winning run.
Luckily for the Boy Scouts who were among the thousands in attendance, they got to stay for the ending. As they were setting up their tents following a game that lasted more than four hours, the players were heading home for rest and a quick turnaround. The same two teams will face each other again this afternoon beginning at 1:05 p.m.
“I’m sure those guys are going to come up,” said Nunnally. “They’re going to be ready to go.”
Ramon Ortiz is scheduled to start on the mound for Buffalo while Pedro Villarreal will pitch for Louisville.