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Oh, So Close!

Bisons’ hope for playoffs fall just short

Several of the Buffalo Bisons’ players, mindful of the city’s recent tortured past when it comes to its sports teams, wanted so badly to deliver some playoff glory for Buffalo.

Manager Gary Allenson sported a swagger and displayed his usual calm wit as the team lumbered through the month of August and put together huge swaths of wins to put the team in striking distance.

Fans turned out is droves. In fact, over 80,000 people walked through the turnstiles for the last six games of the homestand; the Fan Appreciation night finale attracted a standing room only packed house of 18,025, and many of the Buffalo faithful were caught up in the pennant chase. Not only were people paying attention to the goings on with the Bisons, but also scoreboard watching, as Syracuse, Pawtucket and Rochester were intertwined in an epic race for the two available playoff spots in the International League’s North Division.

But in the end it finished in disappointment; the Herd finished 1.5 games out of the playoffs. The team’s fate was pretty much cemented on that home finale, when the Bisons, putting out new pitching phenom Daniel Norris on the mound, came up short against the team they were chasing, the Pawtucket Red Sox. Buffalo lost 9-3, Norris admitted after the game that he didn’t have his usual good motion and could feel something was not right even during the warmups. Pawtucket scored early and often and put the game away early, and the two teams split the series in Buffalo, when it was apparent that the Bisons would have to take at least 3 of 4.

Nonetheless, Allenson was still putting on the good show and brave face even after the defeat. “If we had lost the first two and then come back to take these last two games, everyone would be talking differently right now,” said Allenson, while admitting that the team would have to be just about perfect as they hit the road for the final seven games.

The team was anything but. They ended that final trip with a 4-3 record, good enough to give the team their second winning season in a row since hooking up with the Toronto Blue Jays, but not enough to take them to the postseason.

Joining Buffalo on that trip was Toronto Blue Jays star pitcher Brandon Morrow, who had been on the disabled list since May. Morrow made two appearances in the team’s final two games. He became the 73rd player to wear a Bisons uniform in the 2014 season. He was also listed as the 238th player roster move affecting the Bisons. Both are eye popping numbers and team records.

Allenson gave every bit of credit to his players, and a nod to his staff, including hitting coach Richie Hebner and pitching coach Randy St. Claire, for keeping it together despite the constant chaos to the team roster. “These guys are professionals, they have not only managed to bring these players in and insert them into the lineup, but they have thrived and added to the team chemistry,” said Allenson.

With the season now over, The Toronto Blue Jays have brought up some players to the big league roster. Pitchers Daniel Norris, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman have received callups, as have infielder Ryan Goins and outfielder Anthony Gose. Outfielder Kevin Pillar was promoted to Toronto earlier in the week, and performed brilliantly this past weekend in a series against the New York Yankees. Additionally, catcher George Kottaras and outfielder Dalton Pompey had their contracts selected and have been promoted. Just ten weeks ago, Pompey was playing for the single-A Dunedin Blue Jays, and is now slated to make his major league debut.

Gary Allenson did a yeoman job as the manager, despite his many doubters amongst the fans and media when he took the helm of the team after the abrupt departure of the very popular Marty Brown. Fans continue to rack up good attednace stats, and the presence of Canadian fans coming down to watch their Blue Jays prospects is plainly evident in the stands at every game. While total attendance was down slightly from the previous season, the team endured awful weather challenges right into June.

Opening Day 2015 comes on Thursday, April 9, 2015, at home against the Rochester Red Wings. It’s been nine seasons and counting since the Buffalo Bisons appeared in the postseason Governors Cup playoffs. Perhaps next year will be the one.

Around the Bases...

• Farewell to the Jamestown Jammers. After 75 years of professional baseball in Jamestown, most played in the single-A NY-Penn League and its predecessor, the PONY League, the Jammers played their final games this past Monday at Russell Diethrick Park, splitting a doubleheader. The Rich Baseball owned team has suffered declining interest and lagging attendance these past few seasons. The franchise will shift to Morgantown, West Virginia next season, playing at a new stadium on the University of West Virginia campus.

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