The high school baseball season is a long, grueling one that ends in June for those who compete for state titles.
That’s where coach Eugene Lafitte’s Kilgore High School Bulldogs have journeyed for the last two years, and plan to do so again in a couple of months.
Now, they’re about to shift their sites to defending their District 16-4A title.
Kilgore hosted its annual Oil Belt Classic last weekend, hoping to take home the title for a second straight year. New Diana had other ideas; the visiting Eagles got out to a 3-0 head start and ultimately won, 9-1.
Kilgore, the Oil Belt Classic tournament behind them, moves on to kind of a busy spring break. The Diamond ‘Dogs were to play at Cumberland Academy on Tuesday night in Tyler, in the District 16-4A opener for both teams. That game was to finish after the print deadline for this edition of the News Herald. See results online now, at kilgorenewsherald.com.
Thursday through Saturday, Kilgore is scheduled to play in a tournament in Jasper.
Kilgore’s next home game is Tuesday, March 17, a district game against Chapel Hill at 6:30.
In the Oil Belt final, New Diana got hits from Austin Green, Cade Medlin, Isaiah Martinez and Elliott Foreman in the first inning – Medlin’s hit was an RBI single, and Martinez’s hit was a 2-RBI single. By the middle of the inning, combined with an error, Kilgore was in a 3-0 hole.
The Bulldogs couldn’t get going in the first, in spite of getting a couple of base-runners: catcher Sam Witt drew a full-count walk, and then Chase Hampton reached on an error that allowed Witt’s courtesy runner Heath LaFleur to get to second. But Brayden Johnson’s hard-hit ball to right field was caught, and the Eagles had gotten out of the inning.
Kilgore pitcher Spencer Thompson got out of a jam in the top of the second, walking the second and third batters before striking out Medlin to escape.
The Bulldogs got what would unfortunately be their lone run of the game in the bottom of the second. Hunter Pipak hit a one-out double, and then Chris Ervin reached on an error that also scored Pipak, to cut New Diana’s lead to 3-1.
The Eagles did more damage in the top of the third. Zach Malone singled to lead off, and then after a fly out by Martinez, Foreman walked. One run socred on a wild pitch, and then with two outs, Green put a ball in play that wound up scoring two Eagles. Pipak came on to pitch and got Darren Manes to pop up to shortstop to get out of the inning, but not before ND had claimed a 6-1 advantage.
Hampton had a triple in the bottom of the third, but with two outs left, and was stranded. Thompson reached on a dropped third strike in the fourth, and Wheeler singled, but again, New Diana got out of the inning with a pop-up and a fly ball to center.
They put the game out of reach with three runs in the top of the fifth: a single by Foreman, a bases-loaded walk, and an error that brought in two runs. Kilgore turned a double play to end the inning, but couldn’t score in the bottom of the fifth (even though Hampton did add another single) and that was the game.
Kilgore got a couple of hits and 3 RBI from Chris Ervin Friday night, and 10 strikeouts from Brayden Johnson, to shut out Pine Tree and clinch the spot in the championship game against ND.
Coach Eugene Lafitte’s Diamond Dogs beat the Pirates, 9-0, to do so.
Johnson was masterful on the mound. In addition to the double-digit strikeout game, he only allowed one hit to the Pirates. Kilgore finished with eight hits, and blew the game open in the third inning by plating four runs.
In addition to Ervin’s night, Hampton had a 2-RBI double. Adkins had a double and scored. Johnson helped himself with an RBI single and McFarland finished with 2 RBI. Pine Tree’s one hit in the game was by Wade Fell.
The Bulldogs are 5-4 on the season to date.
Whataburger was the lead sponsor for the Oil Belt Classic, and sponsors for Kilgore baseball this season are Jack and Susan Moore and DKT Investments, Pro-Tec Inspection, Inc., Sherwin-Williams; Sherman and Briscoe Orthodontics, Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano, Citizens Bank, Brogoitti Construction, M&M Contractors & Industrial Coatings, Laird Maintenance Inc., LTW, Wooley Tool, Inc., Bo Rogers of Rogers Law Firm; Brent Bryson, of Allen Bryson PLLC, J.T. Konczak, Panola County District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson, Omega Oilfield Services, D&D Industrial Welding Supply, The Back Porch Stage on Broadway, Bob and Merita Barbee, RLM General Contractors, Fairway Ford, Tara Harris State Farm Insurance, Anytime Fitness of Kilgore, Laird Insurance Agency, Geonix, Mobbs Companies, Gregg County District Clerk Trey Hattaway, Donham Painting, F&F Transmission and Automotive Repair, Hogue Tool & Die, Inc., Nichols Transportation, Brent Rice State Farm, JDW Services, NWS, East Texas Hardware, Carmela Davis, CPA, Mark Smires of Smires, Inc., Patterson Chevrolet of Kilgore, ABC Auto, VeraBank, East Texas Preferred Properties, and Drover Energy Services and Travis Martin.