With a flair for the dramatic, Kilgore is still unbeaten in the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A playoffs.
The Bulldogs beat Wills Point, 8-7, on a walk-off single by Gus Witt to score A.J. Smith on Saturday afternoon, giving Kilgore the two-game sweep.
KHS (26-5) had beaten Wills Point, 8-1, late Friday afternoon.
They’re on to round three, or the Region II quarterfinals. That will be against Pleasant Grove (25-4), who completed a sweep of Brownsboro earlier in the day.
Kilgore will face Pleasant Grove in a best-of-three-game series that is slated to be at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, as long as it lasts. That matchup pits the state’s number two-ranked team (PG) against the sixth-ranked team, their standings in the most recent Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association’s 4A state poll (Monday).
Game one will be Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Game two will be Friday, also at 7:30. Game three, if it’s needed, will be Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Kilgore-PG winner will advance to the regional semifinals to face either Melissa or Sunnyvale.
Kilgore went to the third round back in 2017, and made it within a series win of the 4A state tournament last year (losing to eventual state champion Argyle).
Kilgore 8, Wills Point 7 (game two, Saturday): This one had a completely different feel from the first game, which was pretty much a walk-away for the Bulldogs.
Wills Point, batting in the top of each inning as the visiting team, scored all of its runs on home runs, strangely.
WP got a walk from Gentry Stevens in the top of the second, and then Josh Karr homered to left field for a 2-0 lead. But Brayden Johnson struck out the side, and got the Diamond ‘Dogs out of the inning.
Kilgore would tie it up in that same inning. Jayce McFarland tripled in the lead-off slot. Cole Thompson and Chase Hampton both earned walks, loading the bases, and then Cade Pippen walked to bring in McFarland. That made it 2-1, WP.
Donovan Adkins struck out, but left the bases loaded, and then Jerrick “Deuce” Ervin scored Hampton on a sac fly to tie it up at 2.
Dylan Hoover walked in the top of the third, and moved around to third eventually on a wild pitch. Hoover scored the go-ahead run on a double by Jayton Oldarce, and WP led again.
Then they extended it, unfortunately, on another long ball, a home run, this one hit by Stevens. And it gave WP a 6-2 lead. It
looked as if the series would be tied.
But the Bulldogs, as they’ve done all postseason, came back again.
With an out in the books, Adkins and Ervin were both hit by pitches.
Two batters later -- and after Witt was hit by a pitch, too -- Khalon Clayton singled home both Adkins and Ervin, making it 6-4. McFarland hit a line drive to score Witt and bring Kilgore within one, 6-5.
The Bulldogs created a two-out scoring rally of their own in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs in the books, Adkins singled, and Ervin earned a walk. Both would score on a single by Conner Martin to put KHS in front for the first time in the game, 7-6.
This time, it looked as if Kilgore had the series wrapped, but it was Wills Point who put together some heroics. They tied in at 7-all in the top of the seventh when Josh Brogden scored on a wild pitch.
Everyone then focused on extra innings -- everyone except the Kilgore dugout.
With the game tied at 7, in the final regulation at-bat, Pippen hit a single, and A.J. Smith came on as courtesy runner. He advanced to second on a sacrifice by Adkins.
Ervin and Martin both drew walks, and Witt came to the plate. On a 2-2 count, Witt singled to center field, and brought Smith home for the winning run.
The Bulldogs finished with eight hits. McFarland went 2-for-4 with an RBI; Clayton had a hit and 2 RBI, as did Martin; Thompson, Pippen and Adkins each had a hit; and Witt had the walk-off with the biggest RBI of the game.
Johnson pitched the first six innings, allowing six runs on three hits, and struck out seven. Martin pitched the seventh and allowed a run, a hit and a walk.
Kilgore 8, Wills Point 1 (game one, Friday): Kilgore scored two runs in the second inning, two in the fifth, and four runs in the seventh to finish off WP, which had four errors in the game.
Kilgore had eight hits, including three from Ervin, who went 3-for-4, including a double. Witt only had one hit -- but it was a triple, and he finished with 3 RBI.
Martin went 2-for-3 with an RBI; Clayton and Hampton also each had a hit, and Clayton chipped in an RBI.
Wills Point scored its only run of the game in the seventh, far too late to make much of a difference.
Hampton, a Texas Tech commit, went the distance on the mound, all seven innings, and allowed the one run on five hits. He struck out seven, and walked only two. He’s 10-1 on the season.
Sam Berberich took the loss for WP. He pitched six innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits, and struck out three. He walked two.
Colby Stone came on late, and allowed four runs on two hits, a walk and had a strikeout.