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There's still 18 games left in the Bisons' season but the International League likes to allow fans to start planning ahead -- and I mean way ahead -- so the league has released its 2015 schedule today.

The Bisons will open next season on April 9 with a 2:05 game in Coca-Cola Field against the Rochester Red Wings. It's a summer heavy home schedule, with 31 games on either Friday-Saturday-Sunday and 42 home games in June, July and August. A late Labor Day means the home schedule slips into September for the first time in many years, closing on Sept. 2 against Syracuse. The season closes Sept. 7 in Pawtucket.

The league's schedule matrix has been changed for 2015, as an unbalanced schedule will take place within the North Division to help teams with scheduling weekend dates, off days and long/short homestands and road trips.

So for 2015, theBisons will play 90 games against the IL North instead of the 80 they have played in the past. The Herd will play Syracuse 21 times, Lehigh Valley 18 times and the trio of Rochester, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Pawtucket 17 times. Next year's schedule will see Buffalo play some South and West teams just six times instead of eight.

Since joining the league in 1998, the Bisons had met North foes 16 times and out-of-division foes eight times.

The 2015 Triple-A All-Star Game is July 15 in Omaha and the '15 National Championship Game matching the winners of the IL and Pacific Coast League will be held Sept. 22 in El Paso. That annoucement was just made on Tuesday.

As for annual traditions, School Kids Day will be June 10 vs. Scranton at 10:35 a.m., Star Wars Night will be July 18 against Columbus (6:05) and the Independence Eve Celebration with the BPO will be July 3 against Syracuse (6:05).  The Bisons will start weeknight games in May at 6:05 next season, as they've done in April for many years. Times shift to 7:05 in June. Most Sundays and weekday afternoons will start at 1:05 while there will be two 5:05 starts on Saturdays in May and some 6:05 first pitches for special events.

Here's the complete 2015 schedule:

April: 9-10, Rochester; 11-12, at Rochester; 13-14-15, Pawtucket; 16-17-18-19, Lehigh Valley; 20-21-22, at Pawtucket; 23-24-25-26, at Lehigh Valley; 27-28-29-30, Norfolk.

May: 1-2-3, Louisville; 5-6-7, at Durham; 8-9-10, at Norfolk; 11-12-13, Durham; 14-15-16-17, Toledo; 18-19-20, at Columbus; 21-22-23-24, at Toledo; 25-26-27, Indianapolis; 29-30-31, Rochester.

June: 1-2-3, at Indianapolis; 4-5-6-7, at Louisville; 8-9-10, Scranton/WB; 11, Charlotte (DH); 13-14, Charlotte; 15-16-17-18, at Lehigh Valley; 19-20-21, at Syracuse; 23-24-25, Lehigh Valley; 26-27-28, at Scranton/WB; 29-30, Gwinnett.

July: 1, Gwinnett; 2-3, Syracuse; 4-5-6, Scranton/WB; 7-8-9, Rochester; 10-11-12, Scranton/WB; 16-17-18-19, Columbus; 20-21-22-23, Syracuse; 24-25-26, Pawtucket; 27-28-29-30, at Syracuse; 31, Pawtucket.

August: 1-2, Pawtucket; 4-5-6, at Charlotte; 7-8-9, at Gwinnett; 10-11-12-13, Rochester; 14-15-16, at Syracuse; 17-18-19, at Rochester; 21-22-23, Syracuse; 24-25-26, at Lehigh Valley; 27-28, Pawtucket; 29-30-31, Scranton/WB.

September: 1-2, Syracuse; 3-4, at Scranton/WB; 5-6-7, at Pawtucket

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As for this year's Bisons, Thursday's 4-2 loss to Norfolk saw outfielder Kevin Pillar extend his hitting streak to 21 games but also put another dent into Buffalo's playoff hopes.

With 18 games left, the Herd has slipped 5 1/2 games out in the North Division and 4 1/2 back in the wild-card chase. The Bisons start a three-game series tonight in Lehigh Valley with top Toronto prospect Daniel Norris on the mound, take Monday off and then open the final homestand of the season Tuesday against Rochester.