PAWTUCKET, R.I. - The Buffalo Bisons erupted in an eight-run sixth inning and warded off the Pawtucket Red Sox, 14-8, in a Wednesday matinee at McCoy Stadium to conclude the season-opening homestand.
After the PawSox (2-3) and their opponents combined to score just 22 runs (11 each) in their first four games, Pawtucket and Buffalo revved their engines and combined for that same total in the finale. In the sixth inning alone, Buffalo's first 10 men to the plate reached safely and, in total in the inning, the Bisons (2-1) sent 14 to the plate, scoring eight runs to claim the rubber meeting of the three-game series.
Pawtucket third baseman Jantzen Witte (2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, HBP), catcher Mike Ohlman (2-for-3, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB), center fielder Rusney Castillo (2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI) and first baseman Mike Olt (4 BB) had productive days in the team's best offensive output of the young season.
Pawtucket right-hander Chandler Shepherd, who was a key cog in the team's bullpen in 2017, made his season debut after transitioning to a starting role in the offseason. In five innings, Shepherd worked in the low 90s with his fastball and also featured his curveball, changeup and cutter. The 25-year old from Kentucky allowed five runs on three long balls but struck out six to go along with three walks.
Buffalo got to Pawtucket reliever Brandon Workman (L, 0-1) in the top of the sixth for six runs on four hits. Bisons starter Deck McGuire (W, 1-0) ceded six runs on three walks and five hits in five stanzas. Pawtucket right-hander Kyle Martin, meanwhile, cruised in the seventh and struck out the side in the eighth.
Buffalo No. 9 hitter and second baseman Darnell Sweeney lofted a solo home run to the right-center field bleachers in the top of the third inning. Three batters later, right fielder Teoscar Hernandez drilled a two-run jack into the left-field bullpen to stretch the lead to 3-0.
The PawSox loaded the bases in the bottom of the third on a walk, hit batter and single. That set the stage for Castillo, who drilled a two-run double off the wall on the fly in left-center field. Right fielder Aneury Tavarez then slapped a two-run double of his own down the left-field line to push Pawtucket in front, 4-3.
The Bisons responded promptly in the top of the fourth when third baseman Jason Leblebijian stung a two-run blast to deep left-center field to reclaim a lead, 5-4.
With the lead seesawing back and forth, Pawtucket climbed ahead 6-5 in the bottom of the fourth when Witte walloped a two-run blast to the left-center berm, his first homer of the young season and the team's second.
The Bisons loaded the bases against Workman in the sixth, and center fielder Ian Parmley dumped an RBI single into left field to tie the game 6-6. Sweeney then coaxed a bases-loaded walk to vault in front, 7-6. The next batter, leadoff man Dwight Smith Jr., pulled a grand slam to the right-field corner to stretch the cushion to 11-6. The next four Buffalo batters reached as well, including catcher Danny Jansen after his RBI single that made it 12-6. An RBI groundout netted another run for the Bisons.
The PawSox would not go quietly, however, and Ohlman rapped a two-run single down the left-field line in the seventh to trim the deficit to 13-8.
Buffalo tacked on another run in the ninth on an RBI groundout.
Following the season-opening homestand, the PawSox hit the road Thursday to tangle with the Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers) at 4:05 p.m. Pawtucket right-hander Marcus Walden is scheduled to oppose Mud Hens lefty Chad Bell (0-0, 2.70). Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM and 104.7 FM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the PawSox Pre-Game Show at 3:35 p.m.
The PawSox return home for a six-game homestand April 20-25 (Friday-Wednesday) against the Gwinnett Stripers and Toledo. Good seats are available, and fans can visit the McCoy Stadium box office, which is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., and during all home games. Fans can also call (401) 724-7300 or log on to PawSox.com for tickets.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.