When the season started, Roemon Fields was the fourth outfielder in Double-A New Hampshire. By the end of August, he was the Most Valuable Player for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons and was the catalyst to their home finale win.
Fields singled, stole second then advanced to third on an error in the eighth inning. That set the tone for the Herd's rally. He scored on a single by Michael Saunders to start a three-run inning as the Bisons won, 4-2, over the Pawtucket Red Sox Thursday night in Coca-Cola Field.
"It's been one of those things this year where he just comes through," Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said about Fields in the eighth inning. "He got on first. They were going to try to hold him on, they were going to try and keep him there, but he read it just right and got a big jump. That made the whole thing start. Made the whole thing work."
Saunders scored the game-winning run when a single by Teoscar Hernandez was booted by Pawtucket center fielder Tzu-Wei Lin. Hernandez added an insurance run on an RBI single by Tellez.
But it all started with the MVP, who stole his 40th base of the season, one off the Bisons modern era franchise record of 41 set in 1994 by Tony Womack.
In 100 games with the Herd, Fields has hit .288 with 11 doubles, five triples and 46 runs scored.
"I'm just more consistent," Fields said of his hitting this season. In working with the Bisons staff, particularly hitting coach Devon White, Fields said he learned to "play your game. Learn what kind of game you are and just keep working at it because it's going to pay off sooner or later. Just keep learning a consistent swing and just watch the game. That's the most important thing you can do."
Triple-A debut: It was a solid debut for Ryan Borucki, who pitched six scoreless innings. He gave up six hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Of his 85 pitches, 54 were for strikes.
"I definitely felt a little nervous," Borucki said. "When I came up to Double-A I didn't feel that nervous, but when you've got 13,000 in the stands you're definitely pretty nervous. Once I got that first guy out, struck him out, I settled down and just let my stuff work like I have all year. Just mixing pitches -- fastball, changeup, slider. And just trying to keep hitters off balance."
The 23-year-old lefty has been impressive this season, moving through three levels of the Blue Jays organization. Between Class-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire, he had quality starts in 20 of his 25 starts.
His Double-A debut also went swimmingly, as he pitched a seven-inning, two-hit shutout on July 23 for New Hampshire.
"At the beginning of the year it was just about consistency and learning to settle down," said Borucki who was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2012. "That was my biggest thing. I've really just been breathing a lot and settling myself down and just staying under control. When I start getting in trouble is when I start to overthrow."
Finishing strong: Christian Lopes has been closing out the season with strong performances. The Bisons did not know if they would get Lopes back after he suffered an ankle injury at the end of June. He was out a month before coming back to play in Class A before returning to the Bisons on Aug. 1. With his home run in the sixth on Thursday, Lopes has nine extra base hits and 14 RBIs in his last 18 games.
Tying the game: Pawtucket got on the board when Jantzen Witte led off with a double off reliever Chris Smith then scored on a two-out double by Dan Butler. That tied the game, 1-1, in the seventh.
Breaking the tie: The PawSox took a 2-1 lead in the eighth thanks to a two-out single by Witte.
Attendance: The final night at Coca-Cola saw an announced paid attendance of 13,104. That gives the Bisons a season total of 526,574 fans over 65 home dates for an average of 8,101. Over the last 10 games the Herd averaged 11,580 fans (115,800 total) while the final homestand saw an average attendance of 11,882 (47,530).
Fields MVP: Fields was named the team's Most Valuable Player as voted on by the Bisons organization.
Murphy Smith was named the team's Most Valuable Pitcher, filling a multitude of roles since his promotion from Double-A on April 16. Smith earned his first three career Triple-A saves in his first 11 appearances. He then provided longer relief by tossing two innings or more in 13 of his 29 total outings out of the bullpen. Smith has also started seven games for the Herd this season, allowing two or fewer runs in six of them.
Reliever Josh Stilson was awarded the Comeback Player of the Year. Stilson was a reliable reliever for the Herd in 2013 and to start 2014 before a torn labrum in his right shoulder forced him to miss the last two months of the season. He returned from the injury in 2015, but made just one appearance for Single-A Dunedin before reinjuring his shoulder and missing the rest of that season. After spending 2016 with Double-A New Hampshire, Stilson returned as one of Buffalo’s best bullpen arms this year. Stilson also earned the team's community service award.
Mike Ohlman was named the Hometown Hero for his performance at Coca-Cola Field where he hit 16 extra-base hits, nine home runs and had .507 slugging percentage in 45 contests in Buffalo.
Jason Leblebijian was voted by his teammates as the most inspirational player. Leblebijian played at five different defensive positions and started in every spot in the batting order except leadoff. He was a starter for the International League at the 2017 Triple-A All-Star Game and leads all Bisons hitters with 36 extra-base hits and 60 RBIs on the season.
Fan of the Year: Ray Szkutak of East Aurora has been a season ticket holder since the 1987 season at War Memorial Stadium and attended his first Bisons game at The Rockpile back in 1963. At Coca-Cola Field, “Pounder” is a familiar face in the front row of section 109.
Booster Club Awards: The Buffalo Bisons Booster Club also presented their annual awards with Leblebijian winning favorite player and T.J. House winning favorite pitcher. Jon Berti was named the unsung hero as a player who contributed to the success of the team but did not receive much recognition.
The club presented manager Bobby Meacham with a cutting board in the shape of a bison with images of Buffalo buildings etched into it. They gave general manager Mike Buczkowski a stained glass medallion commemorating 30 years in the downtown ballpark, designed and made by Booster Club Board members Glen and Pat Albig in their Images in Glass studio.
Up next: The Bisons conclude the season with a four-game series at Syracuse. The Herd and Chiefs play at 7:05 p.m. Friday with righty Chris Rowley getting the start against righty Jacob Turner. The Bisons probable rotation is Murphy Smith (Saturday, 7:05 p.m.), Nick Tepesch (Sunday, 7:05 p.m.) and Luis Santos (Monday, 1:05 p.m.).