The Kansas State baseball team put together an offensive clinic combined with strong pitching to defeat the Omaha Mavericks 7-2 on Wednesday night in Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan.
The Wildcats did not waste any time getting on the board. By the time Omaha had a batter in the batter’s box K-State already had a 3-0 lead.
“We had to establish momentum right away, and we did that” head coach Pete Hughes said.
The offensive show started in the first inning. It started with a sacrifice fly by junior centerfielder Will Brennan to bring home junior pitcher Caleb Littlejim.
Then, with two outs, K-State added two more in the inning. An RBI double by junior catcher Chris Ceballos and a fielding error Omaha’s sophomore second baseman Max Gamm allowing the third run to come across the plate.
That was all the Wildcats saw of the Maverick’s freshman starting pitcher Jackson Gordon. The early pitching change was the first of five the Wildcats forced.
Omaha tried to get back into the game in the second inning when Gamm knocked in a run on a ground-rule double, but K-State got out of the inning with a groundout from the next batter.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Wildcats responded. Littlejim got a hold of a fastball and it landed behind the fence in left-center field. The score was 5-1 and the Wildcats were in control.
“[The home run] was a big confidence booster for our whole team,” Littlejim said. “It’s always good playing with the lead and playing with a bigger lead.”
Littlejim said his home run brought lasting momentum through the remainder of the game.
“We just kept swinging at the plate,” Littlejim said.
That showed as the Wildcats found more success in the long ball.
In the fifth inning, sophomore right fielder Zach Kokoska and Brennan both rounded the bases with a roar of the 1,137 fans in attendance with solo homers.
The Wildcats had a chance to put up more runs on the board in the sixth inning as they had the bases loaded with two outs, but Kokoska struck out ending the inning.
In the seventh inning, Omaha got one more run on a home run by junior designated hitter Parker Smejkal.
Coming into this game the Mavericks were hitting almost .300, according to Hughes, but starting pitcher Littlejim recorded a season-high performance as his record on the year improved to 2-1.
Before this game Littlejim had only pitched 2.2 innings in a single game, he shattered that by pitching six innings. He allowed only three hits, one earned run and recording four strike-outs.
“[Littlejim] did a great job,” Hughes said. “The wind was blowing really strong, so you have to have really good stuff to limit a good offensive team to what he did. His stuff was down and really good.”
The Wildcats, now 14-20, will go onto Austin, Texas for a weekend series against the No. 14 Texas Longhorns.
“We need to keep this momentum going,” Hughes said. “Offense is starting to feel good again. We need to keep executing and play clean baseball.”