TUTTLE — As Connor Litterell walked off the mound with Tuttle clinging to a one-run lead late in the Class 4A championship, he had a strong message for Tigers coach Travis Owen.
“Coach, we got it,” Litterell told Owen.
It was a bold statement against Dewey with Oklahoma State signee Carson LaRue on the mound, but it was a glimpse of the confidence Litterell possessed this season as a catcher turned pitcher.
The Tigers won the game, 4-3, for their first title since 2009, and Litterell was the key on the mound then and all season, earning The Oklahoman Little All-City Player of the Year honors.
“He’s just that confident of a kid,” Owen said. “He threw harder on Saturday than he has the rest of the year.
“On the mound, he’s a different kid. He has a different mode.”
Litterell almost ended up anywhere but the mound, and if he had things might have turned out differently for both him and his teammates.
Growing up a catcher, Litterell struggled when put on the mound. His mechanics were off, resulting in too many pitches out of the strike zone along with arm fatigue and soreness.
“When I was younger, I would just try to get up there and throw it as hard as I could,” Litterell said.
But suddenly as an eighth grader he started to find success.
He still had arm soreness from sometimes playing both catcher and pitcher in games — until he found a permanent home away from the mound at shortstop his sophomore year.
Tuttle had star catcher Lane Paul ahead of Litterell, so moving him was easy.
It turned out to be the best decision, too.
Litterell went 10-3 with a 1.66 ERA this season, striking out 112 batters in 86 innings. He won the Tigers’ opening game in the state tournament and closed out the finale in just his second relief appearance.
Litterell also led the Tigers with nine home runs and drove in 27 runs.
Now, he’s bound for Cowley County Community College in Kansas as a pitcher.
“My thought is if I went D-I then I would redshirt,” Litterell said. “How would that make me better instead of going to a junior college and actually getting to play and pitch in games against people and helping me get better and learn more?”
It’s a result of a position change that rippled through the program to restore it atop its class.
“It definitely worked out to my benefit,” Litterell said. “It made a me a lot better of a player because if I would have stayed catching I never would have seen the field. Thankfully (Paul) was there and I got moved to shortstop and was able to work on my pitching to become the pitcher I am now.”