After about a week off, Kilgore High School baseball jumped back into action with arguably their biggest game of the 2019 season to date, and the Diamond ‘Dogs were up to the challenge Tuesday night at tradition-rich Driller Park.
Kilgore shut down a vaunted Spring Hill team, 5-1, in a statement game: the Bulldogs had won the district championship the last two years in going for over 25 wins in each, and Spring Hill is supposed to make a push for that title this year.
In fact, the two teams were to rematch Friday night at Spring Hill, with Kilgore taking a seven-game winning streak into the game. That was to occur after the deadline for this edition of the News Herald. See a story online right now at kilgorenewsherald.com.
Coach Eugene Lafitte's Diamond ‘Dogs were 13-4 overall, and 4-0 in district play, prior to Friday night's rematch. Spring Hill was 3-2 in district, and 11-4 overall prior to Friday's game.
Kilgore's lineup came through with seven hits, and had its five runs before Spring Hill even had one (which it scored in the top of the sixth).
Gus Witt went 3-for-3 for Kilgore with a double and an RBI; Cole Thompson was 1-for-3 with 2 RBI; Jerrick “Deuce Ervin was 2-for-4; Khalon Clayton was 1-for-3 with an RBI; and Jayce McFarland had an RBI.
Kilgore's Chase Hampton, a Texas Tech University verbal commit, was masterful in his 6 2/3 innings pitched. Hampton struck out 13 Spring Hill batters, allowed only two hits and two walks, and the one run was unearned. In 111 pitches, 68 of them thrown by Hampton were strikes. He didn't even allow a Panthers' hit until the sixth.
Brayden Johnson came on late for the Bulldogs, pitching to one batter and getting a strikeout.
Caden Noah, a University of Texas verbal, took the loss for Spring Hill. He threw six innings, allowing all seven of Kilgore's hits, five runs (two of them earned), and walked two. He struck out nine.
Ervin got Kilgore on the board in the first with some heads-up baserunning. He singled, went to second on a wild pitch and to third on a bunt by Conner Martin. Ervin scored on the first hit of the game by Witt, an RBI single.
In the third, Witt got a lead-off double, then scored on a hit by Clayton, who went to second on an error. Thompson brought Clayton home on a single of his own, and KHS had a 3-0 lead.
Kilgore would add two more in the bottom of the fifth. Witt singled, and then when an error allowed Clayton to reach first base, Witt made it all the way to third. He scored on a sac fly by McFarland, and then Clayton would score on a ball put in play by Thompson; Spring Hill chose to take the out at first (Thompson) as Clayton scored.
Spring Hill's only run of the game came in the top of the sixth. Jonas Roberts singled to right, and the Panthers' Craig Hunnicut came in as a courtesy runner. Hunnicut moved up to second on a walk issued to Ethan Tidwell, then to third on a single by Noah. Hunnicut would score on the Bulldogs' only error of the game, which allowed Trent Gregson to reach base.
Some dates to remember for Kilgore fans: they'll play at Henderson on Tuesday, a 6:30 p.m. first-pitch, and then they'll host Henderson next Friday, April 5 – they'll also pay tribute to their past that day, as the Diamond ‘Dogs welcome state tournament alumni from Kilgore teams in the 1960s and early 1970's. Those guys will be guests at Driller Park that day, and welcomed down to the first base line to be introduced.