With the NLL champion Buffalo Bandits in the house – and Dhane Smith throwing the game’s ceremonial first pitch – the Bisons, donning orange, black and white uniforms, took their cue from their cross-town counterparts and emerged from Thursday night’s game with a 7-4 victory over the Syracuse Mets.
The Herd got on the board first following a double by Jordan Luplow and an error in leftfield allowing the runner to score. Rafael Lantigua then got a two-run RBI single to increase the lead to 3-0 in the second inning and Trevor Schwecke hit a two-run home run to left centerfield to make it 5-0 in the fourth.
Getting an early lead was the key to the win on Thursday, according to starting pitcher Casey Lawrence, who allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits with six strikeouts and four walks in six innings.
“Anytime you can work with a lead, it makes it a lot easier as a pitcher to go out there and kind of go about your business and execute a game plan,” Lawrence said. “(Catcher Jamie) Ritchie did a great job calling the game tonight and then keeping the ball in the ballpark for the most part until the sixth but it was mostly about little things like that.
“It was my second time facing these guys this year and learning a little bit about some of these hitters. Got some information from tonight for next time. So you’re always looking for little edges but I’m looking to build off a couple of my last outings and get things rolling.”
Following a solo homer by Ronny Mauricio and a sac fly by Jaylin Davis to cut the deficit to three runs, Davis Schneider increased the Bisons’ lead to 6-2 after an RBI double. Mauricio then hit another home run along with Tomas Nido’s solo shot, but Otto Lopez’s RBI triple for Buffalo ended any hopes of a comeback.
Lawrence praised the work of teammates Hayden Juenger and Hagen Danner, who came out of the bullpen to nail down the win.
“I think it’s always valuable when you can turn the ball over to somebody that you trust to come in,” Lawrence said. “It doesn’t always work out but when you have faith in people coming in out of the bullpen, it’s easy to give them the ball and go, ‘Here, go get them.’
“As a starting pitcher the goal is to get as deep in the game as you can, limit the amount of guys who are going to come in and throw multiple innings and let them come in here, throw one inning, be really, really good for one and hand it off to the next guy. When we’re at our best we’re really sharp at that.”
Lawrence, whose ERA a year ago was 2.79, hasn’t quite pitched at that level so far in 2023. Yet his 5.50 ERA and 68 strikeouts pace the Herd, and he knows that statistics don’t always tell the full story of how well he’s performed on the mound this year.
“Anytime you’re competing out there, you’re looking to find a way to get better – whether it’s through scouting reports or stuff that I’m trying to do individually,” Lawrence said. “You’re going out there with a plan, you’re trying to execute a game plan, and then you’ve got to make an adjustment. I think there’s times this year where I haven’t been able to make an adjustment fast enough and that’s gotten me for three run home runs or whatever. So hopefully I can try to get on a little bit of roll.
“I tried a couple of new things out early in the year that I wasn’t as comfortable with, so I kind of went back to doing some of the older things that I did last year and in years previous. Like working on breaking balls on left-handed hitters or changeups on right-handed hitters – little things like that which are always a work in progress and sequencing and things like that. But the ABS system has made it much different. Strike zones are smaller, hitters are able to be a little bit more patient earlier in the count. So it’s things like that, which you’re always trying to combat and learn from.”
The Bisons enjoyed the atmosphere that was created with the Bandits in attendance and celebrating their championship season.
“Hopefully we put a good product on the field for them to watch,” Lawrence said. “It just gives you a little bit more of a pep in your step being around them and we also had a little bit bigger or rowdier crowd. It sure seemed like the Bandits had a great time and they deserve it.”
Buffalo has improved their record to 30-36 and will attempt to win for the sixth time in their last 10 games tonight against Syracuse.