KALAMAZOO — Homer Stryker Field enticed fans with an all-you-can-eat buffet for Monday’s Northwoods league playoff game.
The Traverse City Spitters waited until the seventh inning to get their fill.
Chad Patrick gobbled up seven sparkling innings and Traverse City’s offense pigged out in a seven-run seventh inning to break open a previously tied ballgame in Monday’s Northwoods League baseball playoff game at Kalamazoo.
The 8-1 victory puts the Pit Spitters up 1-0 in the best-of-three series that heads back to Traverse City for Game 2 Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.
“Our guys are absolutely very confident going into (Tuesday’s game),” Spitters manager Josh Rebandt said. “It doesn’t matter how confident we are as coaches; it matters how confident they are as players. And there’s a lot of confidence offensively, on defense and on the mound. I trust in (Andrew) Hoffmann and our battery.”
The top-seeded Spitters haven’t lost to Kalamazoo in six games at home this season and have the league’s Pitcher of the Year, Andrew Hoffmann (8-0), slated to start. Hoffmann beat Kalamazoo 11-1 in his only home start against the Growlers this season.
“When you put it like that, I’m very confident,” third baseman Chris Faust said. “I’m excited to get back home. I think we have the best fans in the Northwoods right now.”
Traverse City batted around in the seven-run seventh after getting runners on base but failing to get any around on JT Rogoszewski through six frames.
“It was a nail-biter to begin with,” Faust said. “But I had faith, and we all have faith in each other. If we have a one-run game and we get into our bullpen, it’s pretty much game over from there.”
Patrick dominated the Growlers through six innings, needing only 64 pitches. He wore down a little in the seventh and allowed one run before getting out of the frame and returning to the dugout to a hearty welcome by teammates who knew the game would be turned over to relievers after that.
“He was awesome,” Rebandt said. “He had command of his pitches. He started getting command of the slider for a strike in the third inning. Then he started getting more swings and misses. But he just went out there and pumped the strike zone and command that zone and keep them off balance with three pitches.”
Patrick struck out four and allowed only three hits and one walk in seven innings.
Patrick’s effort allowed the Spitters to use only two relievers.
Pat Hohlfeld tossed a scoreless eighth and Luke Little came on to close it out with two strikeouts, including whiffing the final batter on a 98 mile-per-hour fastball.
“He kept us in the game long enough,” Faust said. “It took time for us hitters to get going, but once we did, it was fun.”
Madison beat Wisconsin Rapids in the other Great Lakes series. If both end up as 2-0 sweeps, the league semifinal would be Wednesday in Traverse City.
Faust ended up 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a handful of stellar plays at third base to aid TC pitchers.
“Fausty is a a guy who we knew was going to be a good guy defensively for us,” Rebandt said. “His bat, his approach at the plate has really come along this summer.”
Mario Camilletti drove in the first two Pit Spitters runs with a single to right. That opened the flood gates, with Andrew Morrow, Faust, and Nick Powell adding RBIs.
Traverse City added one run in the ninth on a Powell sacrifice fly.