By Lethbridge Herald on July 6, 2015.
The Lethbridge Bulls must think Brandon Bufton is pretty stupid.
For more than a week, members of the Bulls have tiptoed around the rightfielder, trying to avoid jinxing his hitting streak â€” which set a Western Major Baseball League record on Sunday.
Bufton hit safely in his 26th consecutive game when he slipped a ball into left field in the second game of a doubleheader Sunday at Spitz Stadium.
Bulls players had avoided mentioning Buftonâ€™s prodigious accomplishment, not realizing that heâ€™d done the math long before.
â€œI knew, they were kind of letting me be, but I knew it was coming up,â€ said Bufton.
The Bulls swept the games, beating the Saskatchewan Division-leading Weyburn Beavers 5-2 and 5-0. Bufton finished the second game 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. He had one hit in the early game to tie the record.
The Beavers and Bulls played two after Saturdayâ€™s game was called due to an end-of-the-world thunderstorm.
Bulls coach Ryan MacDonald said he asked the team to keep quiet about Buftonâ€™s streak to keep the batter from realizing he was close to a record, and to keep it from distracting him.
The coach neednâ€™t have worried, Buftonâ€™s better at math than anyone thought.
â€œI didnâ€™t know if he knew or not,â€ said first baseman Mitch Dornblut, a childhood friend and teammate of Buftonâ€™s. â€œI didnâ€™t want to screw it up and I figured he didnâ€™t know because he never said anything about it.
â€œBut I guess he knew since the 16th game or so.â€
Still, baseballâ€™s a superstitious game, so Bufton had to deal with the streak on his own. As the record got closer, Bufton said he tried to keep things as close to normal as possible. He tied the record, set in 2012 by Bulls outfielder Ridge Gonsoulin.
â€œI was excited, but I just tried to prepare the same way,â€ said the Delta, B.C. product. â€œI was definitely thinking about it. I tried not to think about the extra stuff, just tried to keep the same approach every day.â€
When the hit arrived, Bufton said he felt relief more than anything. Heâ€™s had a hit in all but one game this season. He went 0-for-4 in a 4-3 win May 30 game at Spitz Stadium against the Okotoks Dawgs.
Dornblut said Buftonâ€™s always been a hitter, even in Little League. A lot of it comes from his strength, which was on display in the record-setter. The ball was hit more hard than good, and its speed carried it through the infield. Bufton took some applause when the record was announced and was congratulated by teammates after being hit home by Jacob Caples.
â€œItâ€™s crazy the strength he has,â€ said Dornblut. â€œOne time I saw him hit a home run with a metal bat, and he comes to home plate, picks it up and the bat is broken. How do you break a metal bat?â€
Buftonâ€™s hitting .351 with 20 RBIs, a home run and 10 doubles. He has a .904 OPS and a .422 on-base percentage. The only player better in both those stats is Trace Hansen, who survives more on speed than power. On a Bulls team replete with great hitters â€” five players hit above .300 â€” Buftonâ€™s streak has him standing out in the crowd.â€
â€œItâ€™s kind of the icing on the cake with the way weâ€™re playing,â€ said MacDonald, whose team is 22-7, tops in the WMBL. â€œThe whole team is having a good season, so to have something like this going on is a bonus.â€
In the early game, starting pitcher Luc Hebert has his shutout streak ended in the second inning. Hebert had gone 23 innings without giving up an earned run to that point. Hebert still went six innings and gave up just two earned runs to get his WMBL-leading fifth win. Lethbridge product Chris Stodolka got his third save of the season by locking up the seventh. Stodolka also has four wins, a product of the Bullsâ€™ tendency to score late.
â€œI was a little when they cancelled the game last night and decided to play two seven inning games,â€ said Macdonald. â€œthe way we score so late, I would have rather played two nine-inning games but we got some runs in early and got the wins.â€
Hansen had three stolen bases in the early game and hit a triple in the second game.
The second game saw Lethbridge score in the second, third and fourth innings to go up 5-0 while Weyburn didnâ€™t seem interested in putting up much of a fight on the basepaths, giving John Cavness his second win as a starter for Lethbridge.
The Bulls are in Medicine Hat against the Mavericks on Wednesday before hosting the Moose Jaw Miller Express at Spitz Stadium at 7 p.m. on Thursday.