Baseball-Cade Pippen

Kilgore’s Cade Pippen (above) is pictured here, through the lens of guest photographer Luis Guzman, on the base path against Chapel Hill. Kilgore hosts Central Heights Saturday night here at Driller Park, and the Bulldogs will be back in the Class 4A playoffs next week.

It’s been a long season for Kilgore High School baseball, another year of a district battle that might actually be a more difficult road than the first few rounds of the UIL Class 4A playoffs.

Hopefully, last Saturday’s win over Chapel Hill will be a spark for the Diamond ‘Dogs.

Kilgore, after having tremendous success in the last three seasons, stopped a four-game losing streak with a convincing 12-2 run-rule win over District 16-4A rival Chapel Hill (which also has Bulldogs as a mascot).

Before the game, seniors were honored: Donovan Adkins, Cade Pippen, Dalton McElyea, Chase Borders, Hunter Pipak, Bryce Long, Kyle Wheeler and Wyatt Wilkerson.

Kilgore (15-9 overall this season) has already locked up the fourth playoff spot in 16-4A, and was off Tuesday night. Coach Eugene Lafitte’s team, just a season removed from a 4A state tournament berth (in 2019; COVID called everything off a year ago), will finish the regular season this Saturday night here at Driller Park with a 6:30 p.m. first-pitch against non-district Central Heights, normally a 3A power, a good test of the Bulldogs headed into the 4A postseason.

Chapel Hill came to Driller Park for a game Saturday that was originally scheduled for Friday, but storms had other ideas. The game began at 3 p.m. Saturday, and it’s pretty likely Chapel Hill wanted to go home, likely immediately after.

They did lead early, though, a 1-0 lead in the middle of the first inning after an RBI single.

That was pretty much the extent of the Chapel Hill highlights in the game.

In the bottom of the second inning, KHS got in front with a pair of runs. With an out in the books, Jake Thompson hit a line-drive single to center field, then went to second base on a single to left by Pipak. Thompson moved to third after tagging up following a fly out to center by Heath LaFleur, and then scored on a single by Long. Long was thrown out during the play, but Pipak scored as well, to give Kilgore a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish.

KHS got three quick outs in the top of the third, then added two more runs in the bottom of that inning. Adkins drew a one-out walk, and then with two outs and Adkins standing on third – suddenly he wasn’t. Chapel Hill tried to pick Adkins off three times, and he finally stole second, then went to third on a passed ball. McElyea drew the walk, and Kilgore had runners at the corners.

Chris Ervin singled Adkins home, and sent McElyea to second, and then another single by Thompson allowed McElyea to score, giving Kilgore the 4-1 lead.

The score remained the same going into the bottom of the fourth, and it was game on again. Long walked to start the inning, Wheeler successfully bunted back to the pitcher, reached and got Long to third base. Zach Porter came on to run for Wheeler, and stole second. Adkins drew a walk, and loaded the bases for Pippen.

Pippen didn’t disappoint. He grounded and reached on an error, scoring both Long and Porter (6-1 Kilgore) and getting Adkins to third.

Pippen advanced to second, and McElyea drew a four-pitch walk, again loading the bases, with Adkins at third, Pippen at second and McElyea at first. Ervin was hit by a pitch, walking in a run (7-1). Thompson hit what turned into a sacrifice fly to right field, and Pippen came in to score (8-1). Chapel Hill got out of the inning, but not before giving up four runs.

CHHS scored another run of their own in the top of the fifth, but then surrendered more to Kilgore. Pippen drew a two-out walk, and then McElyea walked again. Porter came through, a single that scored both Pippen and McElyea (10-2). Borders came on for Thompson, and smacked a double to center, an RBI double, as it turned out – Porter scored (11-1).

In the bottom of the sixth, Kilgore completed the run-rule. Wilkerson was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a fly hit by Long. Wheeler hit the RBI single that scored Wilkerson – game over.

The Diamond ‘Dogs finished with 11 hits. Long went 2-for-3 with an RBI; Pipak, Borders, Adkins, Pippen, and Ervin each had a hit; Thompson had two, and 2 RBI; Pippen also had 2 RBI, as did Porter.

LaFleur pitched three innings, 65 pitches, and allowed only one run (unearned) on one hit, walked four and struck out four. Chase Lewis pitched 2 2/3 innings and allowed one run (again unearned) on two hits, and no walks. Wilkerson threw a third of an inning, giving up zeroes across the board.

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