TYLER – Records are falling right and left for the Kilgore High School baseball team, which flexed its muscles this week in a series against Crandall, and now moves on to the final eight in the state.
The Bulldogs made believers out of Crandall on Friday here at Mike Carter Field, collecting 15 hits in a 15-4 rout of the Pirates in the UIL Class 4A Region II semifinals. Javan Smitherman had 5 RBI and Ren Reynolds had four hits.
Kilgore, now 27-4 and with 14 straight wins, advances to the Region II final. They’ll face 33-0 Argyle in a best-of-three series to see which one will represent Region II in the 4A state tournament in Austin.
Kilgore-Argyle game one will be Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Corsicana. Game two will be Thursday night, also at 7:30 in Corsicana, and if a game three is necessary, it, too, will be in Corsicana on Friday at 7:30.
The Bulldogs are in the regional finals, one playoff series win away from the state tournament, for the first time since the 2004 season; that year, the Bulldogs lost to Cleburne.
This group of ‘Dogs seems to be on a mission. That 27 wins breaks the single-season win record, set just last year, and they haven’t lost a single playoff game. Even though he's in his first season at Kilgore, the Bulldogs' win over Crandall on Friday was the 300th career win for coach Eugene Lafitte.
Kilgore won game one, 2-1, in a nail-biter on Wednesday night (see kilgorenewsherald.com for that story), and looked for another possible close game on Friday.
But that didn’t happen.
Kilgore made quick work of Crandall, scoring five runs in the first and five more in the third, then scattered five more throughout the other innings. Chase Hampton and Brayden Johnson did well enough on the mound to keep Crandall in check to the point that it never felt like the Pirates threatened, in spite of having the bases loaded more than once.
Reynolds doubled to lead off the game off Arturo Cindo, then went to third on a bunt single by Gus Witt.
Smitherman smacked a 2-RBI single and scored Reynolds and Witt, and then, after a single by Harlee Biggs, Jayce McFarland hit another 2-RBI single to put the Bulldogs up 4-0. Elijah Williams had a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0 before Crandall could get the third out. Kilgore had chased Cindo off the mound by that point.
In the top of the second, Reynolds singled to lead off, then went to third on a single by Smitherman. Reynolds scored on a fielder’s choice ball put in play by Biggs. Kilgore led 6-0.
KHS led 6-1 headed into the top of the third and then went off for five more runs in the third. McFarland walked, then went to second on a bunt by Conner Martin.
Williams drew a walk and Trea Clayton was hit by a pitch. That loaded the bases for Reynolds, who came through with a 2-RBI single. Witt had an infield single that loaded the bases yet again, and Smitherman followed with his second 2-RBI single in the game; he had 4 RBI. And Kilgore led 11-1.
The ‘Dogs got run number 12 off a balk in the top of the fifth.
The game then went into a 90-minute lightning delay in the middle of the fifth, and no runs were scored until the top of the seventh.
Reynolds doubled again, this time with an out in the books already, and then scored on an RBI single by Witt, who went to second on the throw. Smitherman grounded out, but got Witt in for his fifth RBI of the game, and then scored himself on an RBI triple by Khalon Clayton.
In the seventh, Johnson struck out the second batter, and got the final two to fly out. Hampton, just a sophomore, got the win.