HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL / UNIVERSITY INTERSCHOLASTIC LEAGUE CLASS 4A PLAYOFFS

Lady ‘Dogs in best-of-three vs. NL tomorrow

First-round series in Quitman; game 1 set for 6 p.m. Thursday

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For the second straight year, the Kilgore High School softball team is in the postseason, and that’s a lot better than missing for 10 straight.

The Lady Bulldogs had a tough district schedule this year – District 16-4A’s top four teams literally could have been interchanged throughout, it was that close – and wound up finishing fourth, like they did last year. A year ago, though, Kilgore ran into a buzzsaw in the state’s number-one-ranked team, Carthage.

This year, KHS opens the UIL’s Class 4A postseason with a bi-district matchup against North Lamar (18-4), the champions of its own district.

Kilgore (17-9) will meet the Lady Panthers in Quitman for the best-of-three-game series, and game one is Thursday night at 6 p.m.

Game two will be Friday night at 6 p.m., and if a game three is needed, it’ll be Saturday morning at 11 a.m., all based on good weather, of course.

The Kilgore-North Lamar winner moves on to the area (second) round next week to face either Nevada Community or Canton. Coach Cheyenne Kirkpatrick’s Lady Bulldogs head into the playoffs on a high note, having beaten archrival Henderson here at Stream-Flo Park, 1-0, last week, courtesy of strong defense and a solo home run by Bailey Downing. Speaking of Downing, she’s back in the lineup at catcher after an injury a few weeks ago, and Kirkpatrick’s team is mostly healthy.

In the 26 games played so far this season, Kilgore actually has quite a few neutral-site games, like the playoff series it’ll play this week. So far this year, the Lady ‘Dogs are 8-2 in those contests.

Kilgore has scored 198 runs this year – that’s a little more than seven runs a game, on average – and has allowed 116, a little more than four a game.

Base-running and the lack of mistakes there is one reason Kilgore has had a better year this season than last, even though both seasons resulted in fourth-place district finishes. Kilgore has 122 stolen bases, 31 of them by lead-off hitter Downing, 19 by Miah Thomas and 17 by Genna Cavanaugh, one of three Kilgore players to have played in all 26 games this season (the other two are pitcher Kristen Wilson and Hailee Jo Lewis).

Mackenzie Cavanaugh has the team’s highest batting average – she’s batting .453 – with 24 hits, most of them singles. Mackenzie has struck out only five times all season and also has the team’s highest on-base percentage (.508).

Genna Cavanaugh has more at-bats than anyone on the Lady Bulldogs (86) and also is tied with Jaycie Villanueva for the team lead in doubles (five this year). In 75 at-bats, Donwing has four doubles and five triples (that leads the team), to go with two home runs.

Wilson, in 80 at-bats, is hitting .425. She leads the team in RBI (30), in doubles (eight) and home runs (four). She also leads the team in overall number of hits (34).

Wilson has been the pitcher of record in every game this season for the Lady Bulldogs, except three innings thrown by Lewis. In 151 2/3 innings pitched and 700 batters faced, Wilson has 131 strikeouts, has issued just 28 walks, hit five batters, and has thrown 24 complete games. She has a 1.89 ERA, having only allowed 41 earned runs this year.

At first glance, North Lamar looks like a beast. The Lady Panthers are coached by Ashley Endsley, and have won 13 straight games, back to a win over Celina on March 5. North Lamar’s last loss was to North Forney on March 1.

North Lamar also owns a win over a regular Kilgore opponent, Bullard – Bullard won the district that includes Kilgore. North Lamar beat Bullard, 3-2, back in the early portion of the season.

The Lady Panthers went to the third round last season, knocking off Brownsboro and Henderson along the way before losing to Rusk.

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