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Buffalo rallies past St. Joseph 5-4

Kenny Kemp
St. Joseph's Trace Adkins raises his fist after retiring Buffalo's Nick Lovejoy on a stolen-base attempt.

BUFFALO, W.Va. - Despite a mountain of fundamental foibles, Buffalo somehow still managed to win.

Dakota Briscoe laced a bases-loaded single to left field with none out in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday, giving the Bison a 5-4 comeback victory against St. Joseph in the opening game of Class A Region 4 Section 4.

Buffalo (11-12), which blistered the Irish 25-2 in their only regular-season meeting on April 30, was held hitless through four innings and never led Tuesday until Briscoe's walk-off single that scored Levi Jordan.

"We all thought we were going to lose,'' said Briscoe, a senior designated hitter. "Coach [Jimmy] Tribble kept telling us we've got to battle. He told us they came to play their best game, and we didn't, and we were going to have to battle back to win one - and in the last couple of innings, that's what we did.''

St. Joseph (11-10) led 3-0 after the top of the fifth and was still up 4-2 when Buffalo came to bat in the bottom of the seventh.

An infield error and a single helped put Bison runners at second and third with one out, and pinch-runner Beau Whittington scored on Brian Buntura's sacrifice fly to center. Blaik Caplinger was nearly thrown out moving from second to third on the play, which would have ended the game. Nick Gunter followed with a grounder to third that resulted in an error, tying the game and forcing extra innings.

After reliever Aaron Lewis retired the Irish 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth - all by strikeout - Jordan led off Buffalo's half of the inning reaching on another infield error. He took second on a walk and third on a fielder's choice, setting the stage for Briscoe's game-winner.

"It shows that even when we're down, we can come back and win a game when we need to,'' Briscoe said. "Hopefully we can come back [Thursday] and do it again.''

St. Joseph plays sectional favorite Charleston Catholic (21-9) at 6 p.m. today at Buffalo. The sectional was moved to Buffalo's all-turf field from Triana Field, which was still soggy from recent rains.

Irish starter Torin Walters allowed only two earned runs in going the distance and gave up six hits after tossing four innings of no-hit ball. Paul Dransfeld had an RBI single and Trace Adkins drove in another run on a squeeze play for St. Joseph.

"I'm really happy with the effort we gave tonight,'' said St. Joe coach Dave Jenkins. "Nobody likes to lose, but I'll take a 5-4 loss like that and the effort we put out any day of the week. A little play here or there and it'd been a different outcome.

"They beat us pretty good on their senior night a week or so ago and we told our kids before the game that they might be coming in a little overconfident - thinking they'd walked over these guys last week, it'll be another cakewalk. We were missing a few of our kids [in the earlier game] and I thought that may be the difference right there. I knew if we had all our guys here, we could play with them.''

St. Joe was by far the more fundamental team through six innings, committing one error to Buffalo's four in that span and turning three double plays. Tribble lamented his team's spotty start, which included:

  • A walk to the Irish No. 9 hitter, Christian Yablosnky, who came around to score;
  • Two Bison outfielders running into each other, allowing Dransfeld's ball to fall for an RBI single;
  • Misplaying at least three St. Joseph bunts through the first six innings;
  • A Buffalo batter not getting a bunt down on strikes two and three in the seventh.
  • "That's why we're 11-12,'' Tribble said, "That's what 11-12 teams do. Teams that are 24-5 and state championship teams don't do that. We do things 11-12 teams do. That's just the truth - I'm not going to sugarcoat it. You'd think by this time of the year we'd have perfected some of it, but I think in some phases we've gotten worse.

    "Give St. Joe credit. We beat them 25-2 and it could have been a hundred that night, and they had no memory of that whatsoever. Our kids memorized that. They thought we were going to do the same thing again tonight. You've got to have a short memory in this game. I congratulate St. Joe. They came in here and played it like it was a sectional game, and we didn't. Our kids were flat and lethargic. They can blame all that on me, but I don't throw the ball, don't catch the ball, don't hit the ball. They outplayed us in every phase of the game.''

    Tribble felt like the Bison came into the game with misplaced confidence.

    "This team doesn't have any reason to be overconfident against anybody they play,'' he said. "They've got to come to the field every day with their 'A' game or we could get embarrassed. We were fortunate in the last inning to hit the ball to one of their weaker infielders, and he didn't make the play. If we hit it to shortstop [Michael Mayes], the game would be over.''

    Lewis and Caplinger each went 2 for 3 for Buffalo. Caplinger had a two-run single in the fifth. Nick Whittington got the win with two innings of relief.

    Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

     


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