The Buffalo Bisons have been an above-average defensive team so far in 2015.
Thursday night, however, they were exceptional.
The Bisons turned in a pair of Sportscenter-worthy plays in the field in the opener of a doubleheader sweep against the Charlotte Knights at Coca-Cola Field. Buffalo took the opener, 7-3, and the nightcap, 4-2.
Leading 5-0 to start the fourth inning of the first game, Bisons starter Randy Wolf ran into a bit of adversity. He gave up three straight singles, leading to the Knights’ first run. After a wild pitch, the Knights had runners on second and third with one out. Charlotte’s Trayce Thompson crushed a ball into the left-center field gap that looked to be a two-run double that would have pulled his team within two runs.
Instead, Bisons center fielder Melky Mesa, who was called up from Double-A New Hampshire earlier in the day, made a perfect diving catch, taking away extra bases and keeping the momentum squarely with the Herd. Mesa covered a lot of ground for the Herd in the sweep.
“That’s the way that I try to play the game,” Mesa said. “When the guys see your effort, what you put into the game, it’s contagious.”
In the fifth inning, second baseman Andy Burns turned in another gem in the field, going to his right and diving into the hole to take away a single from Charlotte’s Tyler Saladino.
“There was a bunch of really nice plays out there,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said.
Coming into the game, the Bisons ranked fifth in the International League in fewest errors committed, with 39. While the Herd was flashing leather, the Knights were doing their best beer-league softball team impression. Burns scored in the second inning after stealing second base, taking third on a throwing error by Knights catcher Kevan Smith, and then coming home when center fielder Leury Garcia airmailed his throw to third base into the Charlotte dugout.
Knights starter Scott Caroll struggled with control early, walking four runners in the first inning. Bisons catcher Josh Thole then took advantage with a bases-clearing double.
That was all the support Wolf would need, as the veteran right-hander bounced back from a tough start Saturday at Louisville to pitch the seven-inning complete game. Wolf threw 75 of his 109 pitches for strikes.
“Our bullpen’s been short,” Allenson said. “You don’t want to overpitch somebody there, so Wolf to go seven was big.”
Allenson wasn’t around to see the finish to the sweep. He was ejected after the fifth inning for arguing with home plate umpire Shane Livensparger. Bisons designated hitter Matt Hague, the International League’s leading hitter, was ejected after striking out to start the fifth inning.
Hague’s first-inning RBI double opened the scoring in the second game. The Bisons scored two in that inning and added another pair in the third to complete the sweep.