Patient at-bats lead to runs for K-State in win over Northern Colorado

Sophomore Blake Burrows looks to steal a base during the April 13, 2021 game against Northern Colorado at Tointon Family Stadium. (Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State (18-14) opened up a 12-game homestand with an 8-2 victory over Northern Colorado on Tuesday night. The Wildcats bounced back after a series sweep on the road against Texas last weekend.

Head coach Pete Hughes said he felt relieved to be back home and playing good baseball.

“It was good to get back to our winning ways and get back home and play in Tointon,” Hughes said. “Our guys love to do that. We are trying to take advantage of the segment in our schedule.”

Senior pitcher Caleb Littlejim (2-2) pitched five innings and allowed two runs off seven hits. He recorded five strikeouts.

K-State pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts and one walk on the night.

Freshman pitcher Ian Torpey (0-1) earned the loss in only one inning of work. He allowed two runs on one hit with four walks. The Bears pitching staff stuck out nine allowed eight runs, but only earned four runs.

K-State had traffic on the bases throughout the game as the Bears pitchers walked seven and hit three batters. The Wildcats capitalized on the opportunity.

“I was just happy with our plate discipline and that’s a place offensively that we are poor at,” Hughes said. “Our on-base percentage is second to last in the league, and that’s because we don’t walk enough. It takes a little plate discipline to do that and create some traffic on the bases, and good things happen.”

The Wildcats opened the scoring in the second inning with a throwing error by junior shortstop Ben McKay on a grounder from Wildcat sophomore centerfielder Blake Burrows with the bases loaded with two outs. This allowed two runners to score for the K-State.

Northern Colorado freshman second baseman Shaydon Kubo tied the game with a two-run home run in the top of the third inning. The Bears had runners on with one out, but K-State senior catcher Chris Ceballos caught sophomore centerfielder Hayden Heinze stealing third which helped Littlejim get out of the early jam.

“That was pretty big for me,” Littlejim said. “It’s always easier pitching with two outs, obviously. I was kind of scuffling there, so it was good to have somebody step up and make a play for me and get that momentum back. That was big.”

K-State responded with a solo home run by freshman shortstop Nick Goodwin on the first pitch of the home half of the inning, and junior designated hitter Zach Kokoska came around to score on a wild pitch to cap off a two-run inning.

The Wildcats added to the lead with a sacrifice fly by senior third baseman Cameron Thompson and an RBI double by Kokoska in the fourth inning. K-State sealed the game with a two-run sixth inning on an RBI single by Ceballos, and a fielder’s choice by freshman left fielder Cameron Uselton.

K-State will take on Northern Colorado in the final game of the series on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be available on ESPN+ and KMAN radio. Brett Wozniak will take the mound for the Wildcats, and Dylan Day will toe the slab for the Bears.