With one swing of his mighty bat, Sean Casey has forever etched his name in Buffalo baseball lore.
Casey, the 23-year-old phenom who didn't even join the Bisons until Aug. 14, blasted a solo home run in the top of the 10th inning Wednesday night to give Buffalo a 5-4 win over the Iowa Cubs and a three-game sweep of the American Association Championship Series.
It was Buffalo's first victory in the finals after enduring disappointments in 1991, 1992 and 1995, and the city's first postseason baseball title since 1961.
As soon as the game ended, the Bisons' clubhouse in the left-field corner of Sec Taylor Stadium became party central. The celebration, as could be expected, was a wild one with champagne sprays flying in every direction.
No one was spared, be they player or coach, reporter, general manager, owner or even American Association president Branch Rickey. Upon presenting the league's final championship trophy to club operators Bob and Mindy Rich, Rickey was deluged by sprays and beat a hasty retreat.
"This is something you dream of -- winning a championship on a home run in extra innings," Casey said. "Now it's reality. It's the biggest moment in my career.
"The Mighty Casey did not strike out," roared pitcher Ben Blomdahl.
The count was 1-1 when Casey connected on a fastball from Justin Speier, a 23-year-old who had not given up a run in 11 appearances in the regular season and playoffs. The ball soared over the center-field fence as Iowa's Terrell Lowery could do nothing but watch.
"I knew he'd challenge me," Casey said of Speier. "I got a pitch I could drive. I knew it was gone. I felt like it was crushed."
Casey's teammates went wild on the bench when the ball cleared the fence, many of them mounting the steps to greet him as he returned to the dugout.
"I was almost in a dream world," Casey said. "I wanted to get around the bases and get in the dugout. I was so excited, but we knew we had three outs to go."
After the game, Casey snuck out of the clubhouse bedlam for nearly an hour to call his father in Pittsburgh -- about both the home run and his first promotion to the major leagues.
That conversation must have also included a recap of one of the wildest finishes in Buffalo history. The Bisons took a 4-1 lead on Richie Sexson's three-run homer in the fifth and turned over a 4-2 advantage to David Weathers to start the ninth.
Weathers, who pitched a complete game in Sunday's semifinal clincher against Indianapolis, was working on a day he would normally do bullpen workouts. He quickly found trouble when Sexson let Robin Jennings' leadoff grounder squirt through him for an error.
"I thought he hit it harder than he did," said Sexson, who had made only four errors all season. "I came back on it and (it) just went through my legs."
A double by Brant Brown, a sacrifice fly by Rod McCall and another double by Pedro Valdes tied the game, 4-4, and left the Bisons in shock. True to their nature, they didn't die. Teams that win 93 games are tough to break.
"We just said, 'OK, you want to fight? We'll fight. Let's fight,' " said outfielder Trenidad Hubbard. "I knew Casey was going to do something. We fought too hard for this."
"It deflated us but we knew we had to just hang in like we have all year long," added Torey Lovullo. "We would have played all night if we had to."
Hubbard led off the 10th by lining out, but Casey followed by putting Buffalo in front.
"When Casey hit that ball out, I could see the look in guys' eyes on the bench," said manager Brian Graham. "(Shortstop) Enrique Wilson was one of the most verbal and he's usually not. He said, 'Let's go. Let's finish this.' "
They did, but not without a scare. Marc Dalesandro popped out to lead off the Iowa 10th, but third baseman Russell Branyan booted Brandon Wilson's grounder for another error.
Up stepped shortstop Chris Petersen, who had homered off starter Marcus Moore in the third. Petersen hit a sharp grounder to Lovullo at second, who threw to Wilson for the force. Wilson fired to Sexson at first and the Bisons poured onto the field to celebrate.
"You can win titles in Class A or anywhere else, but Triple A is the highest you can win before the World Series," Sexson said. "I've never had so much fun as with this group of guys."
Sexson admitted the specter of his error hung over him until Casey's home run.
"I've been hugging him since we got in here," he said. "I can't stop."
The game was Buffalo's 1,893rd and final Association contest (31 in the playoffs). Next year, the Herd moves to the International League after 13 years in the Association. The first 12 ended with no championships, some marked by bitter disappointments.
The finish to this one won't be soon forgotten.
"That's how you're supposed to win a championship, with somebody being a hero," Graham said. "Look at the guys with big hits tonight. Richie Sexson and Sean Casey are young kids, draft picks through our system. It's just how it should be. What a proud way to win."