Littlejim lifts K-State past TCU in game one of Big 12 semifinal

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Senior Caleb Littlejim pitches during the April 13, 2021 game against Northern Colorado at Tointon Family Stadium. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

While he won’t get credit for the win in the scorebook, senior two-way player Caleb Littlejim was heroic in Kansas State baseball’s 5-2 victory over TCU to avoid elimination in semifinal one of the Big 12 Championship on Saturday morning.

Littlejim — usually an outfielder — was the answer to the Wildcats dwindling pitching staff in the 9 a.m. game. It was only his third start of the season.

He pitched 4.2 innings, giving up two runs on three hits, striking out five and throwing a season-high 91 pitches against the Horned Frogs. To qualify for a win, a starter has to pitch a complete five innings.

The Wildcat offense lifted Littlejim before he ever stepped on the mound, giving him a four-run cushion in the top of the first inning.

Junior first baseman Terrence Spurlin opened up scoring with a single to right field, scoring sophomore TCU-transfer Cole Johnson, who reached on an error.

Freshman shortstop Nick Goodwin sprayed a single to the other side, bringing home sophomore left fielder Dylan Phillips — who had walked previously — and pushing Spurlin to second. Littlejim — also serving as designated hitter —later walked a batter to load the bases.

Junior second baseman Kamron Willman found left field for a double to score Goodwin and Spurlin, bringing the Wildcat total to four runs in the opening frame.

Littlejim gave the Horned Frogs a pair in the bottom of the first as he settled into his role as a starter.

In the fourth, senior third baseman Cameron Thompson brought Willman home from second to add an insurance run.

The Wildcats could have scored more in the inning until Johnson was controversially called out for interference after squaring around to bunt on a steal attempt.

With a pair out in the bottom of the fifth, sophomore lefty Eric Torres replaced Littlejim on the mound and shut down the TCU offense to the tune of 4.1 innings of two-hit baseballs while fanning eight Horned Frogs. He recorded the win.

K-State, who handed TCU its first loss of the tournament, will need to beat the Horned Frogs again at 4 p.m. this afternoon to eliminate TCU and move on to the Big 12 title game at 5 p.m on Sunday.

The second semifinal game against the Horned Frogs will be broadcasted live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and on the K-State Sports Network.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.