It took 11 innings and nearly four hours to do it, but the Buffalo Bisons ended their five-game losing streak Saturday night with a pulsating 7-6 victory over the Nashville Sounds at North AmeriCare Park.
Richie Sexson's bases-loaded single off Brian Woods in the bottom of the 11th gave the Herd the win and extended its lead over the Sounds to 5 1/2 games in the American Association East.
The inning gained its momentum after Enrique Wilson failed to sacrifice Les Norman's leadoff walk, bunting into a force at second.
Trenidad Hubbard then doubled over the head of right fielder Carmine Cappuccio to send Wilson to third. An intentional walk to Jeff Manto and a Bruce Aven strikeout set the stage for Sexson, who was hitless in his last 14 at-bats.
"It wasn't a huge relief for me or anything like that," said Sexson, who was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts in the game to that point. "I'm most happy for the team and then for myself."
Sexson swung and missed at Woods' first pitch before fighting off an inside sinker and looping it into short left field. It scored Wilson to end the 3-hour, 48-minute marathon, the fifth-longest game in NAP history.
"I was just trying to stay inside the ball," Sexson said. "I knew if I could keep it low enough, I could almost place it out there. It was a good pitch by him."
A crowd of 11,558 saw Buffalo reliever Tony Dougherty (1-0) throw perfect 10th and 11th innings to get his first Triple-A win.
Casey Candaele and the red-hot Norman had four hits each for the Herd, with Norman nearly becoming the first Bison ever to hit for the cycle at the NAP.
Candaele spent the final inning serving as Buffalo's emergency catcher after the Herd pinch-hit for Steve Soliz in the 10th. First-stringer Einar Diaz was unavailable because of a sprained ankle suffered Friday night.
Norman doubled in the first, singled in the third, belted a three-run homer in the fifth and singled again in the seventh. Needing a triple to complete the cycle, he came up in the eighth with the Bisons nursing a 6-5 lead and Candaele on third.
Norman belted a two-out drive to dead center field and was almost at second base when Nashville's Magglio Ordonez backhanded the ball on the warning track. The ball ticked off Ordonez's glove but popped in the air and he grabbed it with his bare right hand to get the out.
"I wasn't sure if he could catch it but then I saw it pop out of his glove," Norman said. "He stuck his hand up and made a good play. As long as we won, the cycle doesn't mean a thing compared to that."
Of late, highlight-film plays are about all that can get Norman out. He's 9 for 13 in the last three games with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.
Norman and Ordonez, former teammates in Venezuelan winter ball, had a friendly exchange crossing paths after the catch. Norman fired his batting helmet at Ordonez in mock disgust. Ordonez was smiling widely as he went back to his dugout.
It appeared Ordonez might have the last laugh, too, when pinch-hitter Mario Valdez drove Darryl Scott's second pitch of the ninth into the bleachers for a game-tying home run.
Buffalo starter Travis Driskill gave up a two-run shot to John Cotton in the first and another to Cappuccio in the third that made it 4-0. Driskill, however, managed to last seven innings and left with Buffalo down only 5-4.
The Bisons' offense awoke with a four-run fifth to tie the score, capped by Norman's home run into the left-field screen.
The series concludes with a double-header today at 2 (Radio 550). Roland DeLaMaza (7-1) will pitch the opener for Buffalo with Daron Kirkreit, Cleveland's No. 1 draft pick in 1993, coming up from Double-A Akron to make his Bison debut in the nightcap.