What if is no more: Kilgore High School will play in the state baseball tournament.
The Kilgore High School baseball Bulldogs completed a sweep of Fort Worth Benbrook on Thursday night, finishing the first game with an 8-0 win, then beating the Bobcats soundly again, 13-4, both at Dallas Baptist University.
Kilgore (32-7 this season) is the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A Region II champion, and will join champions from Regions I, III and IV next week at Disch-Falk Field at the University of Texas in Austin for the Class 4A state tournament.
There are two semifinal games on Wednesday, June 5: one at 1 p.m., and one at 4. The state championship game is the following night, Thursday, June 6, at 6:30 p.m. At press time, the other regions were not decided.
The News Herald will have more state tournament information, including an opponent, on kilgorenewsherald.com and the News Herald’s Facebook page this weekend, and of course, wire-to-wire coverage online and in the print edition for the next week.
Kilgore set a new school record for wins in a single season, and obviously that’s at 32 and still counting. The Diamond ‘Dogs have won their district’s championship for three years running, the last two with coach Eugene Lafitte at the helm. And they made the fifth round – the round away from the state tournament – for the second straight year.
Last year, the ‘Dogs’ season ended in crushing defeat to Argyle. But this year, it was Kilgore that claimed the regional championship by dominating a Benbrook team that had been heralded in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday. The third-year program did take a major step by getting this far into the playoffs, and pulled a major upset over Kilgore district rival Spring Hill.
But there was no ousting Kilgore before Austin this year.
KHS led game one of the best-of-three series 2-0 Thursday night when lightning suspended the game at Mike Carter Field in Tyler in the middle of the fifth inning. Coach Eugene Lafitte’s Bulldogs took the 2-0 lead before the lightning delay as Jerrick “Deuce” Ervin tripled to score Donovan Adkins (who had singled), and then Conner Martin singled to score Ervin.
Benbrook had no answer for Kilgore pitcher Chase Hampton on Wednesday night, and that continued on Thursday when the game resumed at DBU in the bottom of the fifth. Kilgore couldn’t plate a run in the fifth, but brought home six in the bottom of the sixth inning.
With an out in the books, Kilgore shortstop Gus Witt drew a walk. Khalon Clayton hit a double to score Witt, and then Clayton scored on a second straight double, this one by Jayce McFarland.
Cole Thompson, the designated hitter, singled to send McFarland to third base, and a walk issued to Hampton loaded the bases.
Cade Pippen was hit by a pitch, which walked in a run, and then Adkins put the ball in play and reached on an error. That also scored Thompson (6-0).
Ervin hit a sac fly that scored A.J. Smith (running for Hampton), and then Pippen scored on an error to make it 8-0 before the Bobcats finally got Witt to fly out to end the inning.
Benbrook produced absolutely nothing in the top of the seventh, and Kilgore won the game.
The Bulldogs finished with nine hits. Clayton went 2-for-3 with an RBI, and Martin, 2-for-4 with an RBI. Ervin had a hit and the 2 RBI, and McFarland, Thompson, Pippen and Adkins each had a hit.
Hampton threw six innings. He struck out eight and allowed just two hits, no runs and a walk.
Brayden Johnson pitched the final inning. Johnson struck out one and allowed a hit.
In game two, it was all Kilgore, from the outset.
The Bulldogs got a lead-off single from Ervin, and then Benbrook recorded two quick outs. But it wasn’t to be for the Fort Worth school. Clayton tripled to score Ervin, McFarland singled to score Clayton (2-0), McFarland went to second when Thompson was hit by a pitch, and both scored on a double by Hampton (4-0).
Hampton went to third on a wild pitch, and Pippen drew a walk. Adkins doubled to score them both. Kilgore went up 6-0 before the Bobcats even got an at-bat.
With singles by three of their first four batters, Benbrook got back in the game by scoring three runs in the bottom of the first.
But Kilgore took whatever fight was left out of Benbrook in the second inning – by scoring six more runs.
With an out in the book already, Clayton reached when he was hit by a pitch. McFarland flied out, and then the bottom fell out. Thompson walked, and then Hampton singled, scoring both runners (8-3). Hampton went to second on a passed ball, and then to third when Pippen followed with a single. Adkins reached on an error – Benbrook committed a whopping seven in game two, and nine total in the two games, and that also scored Hampton (9-3).
Pippen scored on another error (10-3), and then Ervin walked. Adkins and Ervin both scored on a single by Martin (12-3).
Benbrook would score just once more in the game, in the bottom of the second. Kilgore would add another run in the top of the seventh: Martin doubled, then scored on an RBI single by Witt.
In the second game, Kilgore finished with 12 hits: Adkins, Hampton and Martin each had doubles, and Clayton, the triple.
Hampton went 2-for-4 in game two, with 4 RBI. Martin went 2-for-5 with 2 RBI; Clayton went 2-for-4 with an RBI; Witt had a hit and an RBI, as did McFarland. Adkins had a hit and 2 RBI. And Ervin, Thompson and Pippen all each had a hit.
Witt, elected to the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association’s All-Star Game, pitched the first six innings, giving up 10 hits, but only four runs, all earned. He struck out five and walked two. Johnson, as he did in game one, came on to finish off Benbrook. He pitched just the seventh inning, allowing no runs, no walks, just one hit, and had a strikeout.
Kilgore is now 10-1 in these playoffs, with Pleasant Grove dealing the Bulldogs their only postseason loss.