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Over in Batavia… A No Hitter and Magical Day

How to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon on a holiday weekend when you’re sports dudes like we are… take in a baseball game that’s what.

Had the Buffalo Bisons still had a shot for the International League Governors Cup playoffs, a roadie to Syracuse would have been in the cards today. With the Herd’s playoff hopes extinguished last night in Rochester, it was off to Batavia instead to see the Muckdogs take on the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Batavia is the low “A’ affiliate of the Miami Marlins, while the Scrappers are part of the Cleveland system.

The game meant nothing in the standings; both teams are done as far as the New York/Penn League playoffs are concerned. It was “free food for seniors” day, but with meaningless baseball, the crowd was somewhere in the 600 range on a sunny and muggy Sunday.

The fans who did attend got a chance to be a part of history and witness one of the rarest of baseball occurrences – a No Hitter. In this case it was the visiting Mahoning Valley Scrappers, using a combined three pitchers, who went nine innings and managed to post a 6-0 victory and no hits for the home team.

The three pitchers were named Luis Gomez, Carlos Melo and Kerry Doane. Gomez in particular was outstanding, he got into trouble in the first allowing a base on balls and then a hit by pitch, but got out of the jam nicely. He went on to pitch six strong innings, and was virtually unhittable, confounding batters with a combination of fast ball and breaking ball. The three combined for 12 strikeouts.

In the 9th inning, Doane surrendered a leadoff hit which caromed off the third baseman and took a vertical hop, allowing the runner to get to second base. The official scorer quickly ruled it an error, keeping the no-no intact. From there, it was a ground out, strikeout looking and a strikeout swinging, and the entire MHV team poured out onto the field and mobbed the pitcher in jubilation.

And where were we? There is a great back story involving my USRT partner and fellow Artvoice sports columnist Peter Farrell. Pete has been on a mission to see a no hitter since his childhood days. He was not there in 1997 the night Bartolo Colon made history for the Bisons – the only no hitter ever thrown at Coca Cola Field (I was there that night). A combined Bisons no hitter in 2001 went awry in the 9th inning when second baseman Kevin Sefcik couldn’t climb the ladder to snare the ball. A few years later, Buffalo pitcher Kyle Denney took a no hitter into the 9th and couldn’t cash in on a Saturday afternoon, which was just as well as Pete was not in attendance, instead out delivering mail.

The Quest For No Hitter and the ultimate failing of that quest has become synonymous with Pete amongst the Bisons media and staff in the Coca Cola Field press box. It has become a tradition among the scribes to call out “See Ya Farrell” or “Good Night Farrell” at the immediate moment both no hitters on the field are gone. This past Thursday, the final home game of the Bisons season, Buffalo had a no hitter going into the 6th inning. Pete showed up (running late after a monster overtime day at work) just as the 6th inning was getting underway. We all knew. Everyone knew that the minute Pete showed up, Buffalo’s no hitter was doomed. Sure enough. As soon as Pete got his beverage and settled into his chair, Sean Nolin gave up a solo home run to right field. 5 2/3 innings. No hitter gone. See Ya Farrell.

So here we are, in the grandstand behind home plate at Dwyer Stadium, both anxious and nervous as the 9th inning unfolds. Literally quaking and hanging on every pitch. A quick “whew” as that leadoff runner gets called an error. Then a ground out. One away. Pitch after pitch we are hanging on the ball. The next batter looks at a 2-2 pitch that should have been called strike. It was a ball. No matter. The next pitch he goes down looking.

I turn to Pete and recite one of the memorable quotes (amongst many insanely memorable quotes) from the 1989 baseball movie “Major League”. I said, “Pete, this is the out you’ve been waiting your whole life for.” I wasn’t far off with that statement. This was as close as we had come in years to witnessing a No Hitter in our many USRT baseball experiences. Would Mahoning Valley have it in them to get that final out?

No More "See Ya Farrell". It's a No Hitter today in Batavia

No More “See Ya Farrell”. It’s a No Hitter today in Batavia

It took only four pitches. On a 1-2 count, the final Batavia batter took a massive swing. The ball was safely in the catcher’s mitt. The entire Scrappers team piled onto the field in jubilation. And we can tell you that there was nobody louder or making more commotion in the stands than us. We were hugging, high fiving and whooping it up, even eliciting stares from the locals. A lady behind us asked if we were affiliated with the team. Really, ma’am? Would we be carrying on like this for a meaningless September win on the third last day of the season? We explained to her and her group that we had all just seen a no hitter, and they were oblivious to what was going on.

We stayed. We tweeted and facebooked and let all our friends know what we just saw. We took photos, went to the rail close to the MHV dugout to cheer on these young lads for their memorable accomplishment. And we just savored the moment, knowing it may be a long, long time, if ever, that we experience something like this again.

It’s a safe guess that the “See Ya Farrell” call will remain a part of Bisons press box tradition come 2014, because it just is, that’s why. But it will never be the same. Peter Farrell, and the USRT, have now attended and witnessed a No Hitter. As Pete tweeted, can a Bills’ Lombardi Trophy and a Sabres’ Stanley Cup be far away? At this point, anything is possible.

Andrew and Peter comprise the Ultimate Sports Road Trip and also cover Buffalo Bisons baseball and Buffalo Sabres hockey for Artvoice. Follow them on Twitter @akulykUSRT and @pfarrellUSRT