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Kilgore’s Jayce McFarland (above) lays down a bunt in the series against Benbrook. The Bulldogs set another new single-season wins record this year (32), but that’s still in play, and two more would allow them to capture the program’s first ever baseball state title. (Photo by MITCH LUCAS)
The most fun columns to read are normally the ones where we talk about how exciting it was for Kilgore to beat “X,” and the way the Bulldogs – in whatever sport – came from behind, or had to hold on, for a hard-fought victory and earn a big win, whether it’s a football playoff, an area track meet or a baseball best-of-three.
The fact is, Kilgore-Benbrook wasn’t all that exciting. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fantastic. But Kilgore took the drama out of that series before it even pulled up to the station. In fact, I’m not sure Drama was even on the bus. But Blowout and Anti-climatic sure were. And they were in the front two seats.
That’s a testimony to coach Eugene Lafitte and the tight ship he runs known as the KHS baseball program.
Kilgore took a 2-0 lead home with them from Tyler Wednesday night, waited about 22 hours, then proceeded to unload on Benbrook to one of the most convincing 8-0 wins you’ll ever see. In fact, by the time we got to 8-0, it felt like it could’ve been 16-0, or even 21-0. It was that emphatic.
And the first inning of game two? Six runs for Kilgore before Benbrook even mashed the chalk of the batter’s box? Forget about it.
The Bobcats were a great story, no doubt. Three years into a program shouldn’t find a team in the fifth round of anything, let alone something so competitive as UIL 4A baseball. Lafitte is something like 70-13 just at Kilgore in the last two seasons and two trips within a round of the state tourney. Some baseball coaches don’t get that far in an entire career, let alone two consecutive seasons.
Lafitte has been a general. From my point of view, he has his way of doing things. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t listen to his coaches, because he does, and he has a heck of a coaching staff in Joey Pippen, Josh Riley, and Jason Gunn. Lafitte knows what he wants, and if you want to play for him, you’ll do your best to deliver.
And guess what? That gets the job done. Ask Spring Hill. Ask Liberty-Eylau. Ask Pleasant Grove and Melissa.
Ask Benbrook.
So, from my perspective, you don’t talk about history much – unless you want to BE history. Kilgore’s tradition in baseball is fantastic.
But this year’s team is moving trees and making its own path. They have all sorts of pieces, from a pitching staff that is deep to an all-star shortstop batting over .500, a dynamic catcher that can make all the throws to an outfield that gives them tremendous chance to reach every ball. It’s a machine.
The infield is as experienced as any Kilgore has had in years, and I’ll be the first to say it: when you lose talent like Ren Reynolds, Harlee Biggs, Trea Clayton, Javan Smitherman and Collin Pippen – all graduated from here in the last two years – you probably shouldn’t be playing for a state title. But Kilgore is. And it’s to the credit of the current players who absolutely refuse to lose, and to the coaching staff, that the Diamond ‘Dogs of 2019 have laid their own legacy.
So next week, we’ll talk of 1972. We’ll talk a bit about 2004. You might see names like Terry Thrower, or Jess Todd, maybe a Pat McCrory, or a Clint Toon or Andrew Terrell. You might read about that time the Bulldogs knocked off a team that had a future Cy Young winner (Clayton Kershaw).
For now, though, you’ll read about Jayce McFarland, Cade Pippen, Chase Hampton, Donovan Adkins, Gus Witt, Dalton McElyea, “Deuce” Ervin, Conner Martin, Khalon Clayton and the Bulldogs who have the pen in their hand. You know – writing the pages that we’ll be talking about for years and years to come.
See you in Austin.
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