TRAVERSE CITY — Mario Camilletti felt disrespected.
He was the next man up in the ninth inning and the Kalamazoo Growlers thought they had an easy out.
Not this time.
After Daniel Head drew a walk to start the ninth inning, lead-off man Hudson Byorick was put on first base intentionally after a sacrifice bunt. The Growlers hoped to turn a double play but Camilletti had different plans.
“After he (Byorick) got walked I just knew that there was no respect for me,” Camilletti said. “I was 2-for-3 before that hit and I was just like, there is no respect. I’m ready for it.”
Camilletti wasn’t lying, he sat on a fastball and knocked in Head on a walk-off single to right field and sent the Traverse City Pit Spitters to the Northwoods League semfinal game on Wednesday.
Traverse City took the 5-4 win in front of 3,242 towel-waving fans at Pit Spitters Park on Tuesday in the franchise’s first home playoff game.
Camilletti has come up clutch for the Spitters many times this season but none had the implications of this moment.
“I was actually very ready for the water pour this time because last walk off it was a full on water pour so I was ready for it,” Camilletti said. “The emotions of just knowing that I did that was amazing. It just kind of melted my heart.”
The moment would not have been possible without the perfect outing from reliever Joe Pace.
The fifth-year senior at Michigan was called on in the ninth to hold the Growlers scoreless and give the Spitters a chance at a walk-off. He executed coach Josh Rebandt’s plan flawlessly.
Rebandt and the team talked in the dugout and had the confidence to script what was going to happen.
“They’re like, hey, let’s just hold them off in the ninth and walk it off for the fans,” Rebandt said. “So they were talking about in the dugout and they have a lot of confidence in Joe Pace and really anybody that we throw out there. They’ve done a nice job for us on the hill. But Joe did it tonight.”
Pace struck out the side, whiffing all three batters on a 91 mph fastball to put his team’s destiny in its own hands.
The rest is history.
The Pit Spitters scored in the first and jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the fifth.
The Spitters’ ace Andrew Hoffmann started the game, tossing five scoreless innings before the Growlers were able to hit four straight singles in the sixth.
This was his last game in a Pit Spitters’ uniform as he made the eight-hour drive from southern Illinois to pitch on Tuesday. Hoffmann has to report back to John A. Logan College for the first day of school on Wednesday.
Rebandt said they wanted to throw Hoffmann on Tuesday to get all they could out of the Northwoods League Pitcher of the Year.
The Growlers scored three runs in the top of the sixth before Hoffmann was pulled and Kevin Hahn took over.
Hahn pitched three innings, allowing one run in the eighth that tied the game at 4.
Even with the score tied, Rebandt knew his team was not down and out.
“No doubt, they don’t quit,” he said. “They have more confidence than a lot of the players that I’ve ever coached. These guys are hungry, they want to win this thing.”
The Pit Spitters will face off with the Madison Mallards in a one-game, winner-take-all semifinal series on Wednesday at Pit Spitters Park from which the winner will advance to the Northwoods League championship game.
Traverse City has its collective eye set on winning the championship, and Camilletti is just as ready as he was when he stepped to the plate in the ninth.
“I feel like we’re one big family now. There’s no me. There’s no I. We’re just like one big family and we’re a team,” he said. “I think we’re gonna go all the way personally, which I’m ready for it.”