Mike Ohlman rounded first and the swarm immediately engulfed him. The Bisons' dugout emptied, and Ohlman ran into shallow right field to try and evade his teammates. Teoscar Hernandez had just sprinted across home standing up, veering left to join the mob.
Such a celebration has happened sparsely at Coca-Cola Field this season. Fifth-place Buffalo trudged through abysmal months of June and July, with only the option to play spoiler for the final month-plus of the season. The Bisons (50-64) have done just that this week, winning five straight against the division's top two teams, en route to its longest winning streak of the season.
The latest victory, a 10-inning, 1-0 triumph over the IronPigs (67-47) Sunday afternoon, capped off a three-game sweep of the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate thanks to Ohlman's heroics that have Bobby Meacham's squad riding high even if it's too late.
"I'm happy to walk out of there on top," Ohlman said. "Five in a row there. Just keep it rolling."
Sunday was only Buffalo's sixth extra-inning game this season. The Bisons owned a 1-4 record through the first five, its only win coming on May 19 in a 13-inning, 7-5 victory over Pawtucket at home. So often in late-game situations, Buffalo has failed to deliver the timely hit. Through two laborious months in the middle of the calendar, Meacham sounded like a broken record when pressed time and time again to pinpoint where his team was faulting.
Now he strides into the postgame interview room with a smile on his face, a sight that came few and far between earlier in the year, animated before he even starts to take questions. "How's it going?" one reporter asked Meacham as he arrived Sunday. "You kidding me?" he chirped back. "Five in a row!"
"Of course when Mike gets the hit, it’s big," Meacham said. "When you see a guy cross home plate to win that thing, all the guys running out of the dugout, great team win."
Offensive futility defined Sunday's game through the first nine and a half innings, with stalwart defensive plays preventing either team from jumping ahead. Lehigh Valley's Scott Kingery stood on third with one out in the seventh, but Shane Opitz snagged a liner at first and doubled off Kingery to escape the jam. Then in the eighth, Jon Berti and Gregorio Petit turned an acrobatic double play to escape a first-and-second, one-out conundrum.
Buffalo's chance seemed to present itself in the ninth, when the league-leader in steals walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Roemon Fields and his 34 stolen bases took off for third with one out, but he over-slid the bag and was tagged out in foul territory.
"I just kinda laughed because it’s a typical game where nobody can really catch an offensive break," Meacham said.
When Ohlman finally stepped to the plate, he looked for a slider. He got one on the second pitch and looped it into left field. Hernandez had already passed third when left fielder Andrew Pullin started his cro-hop. Ohlman watched Meacham from first, just in case Hernandez got thrown out and Ohlman needed to make it to second. But no throw could've nabbed Hernandez, who crossed home with ease, enciting a frenzy out of the first-base dugout.
"When (Hernandez) got to me, he was going so fast," Meacham said. "I was like, ‘Wow,’ because he read it perfect. He didn’t give me a chance to do anything but send him … That’s bringing home the mail right there."
Drenched in sweat, Ohlman trotted into the locker room postgame after his moment in the spotlight. He wore his Blue Jays warmups, and Bisons PR Director Brad Bisbing suggested he find a drier shirt.
"I'm gonna wear this home," Ohlman responded, a fitting answer for a player and a team finally enjoying their shining moment.
"It’s finally coming together, those big hits," Fields said. "Work is finally paying off. It’s August … things are just coming together now."