In a wild game that served as the tiebreaker for the fourth and final District 16-4A playoff berth into the UIL Class 4A softball postseason, Kilgore came through, and in a big way.
It took three hours, 36 minutes, 11 innings, and home runs galore, but the Lady Bulldogs did it – a miracle catches by Alyssa Whitington, two home runs each by Jada Dennis and Haylee Brown (including a grand slam), Jaycie Villanueva had one, throw in a little bit of good-old-fashioned finger crossing, and Kilgore held on for a 13-9 win.
That sends coach Cheyenne Kirkpatrick’s Lady Bulldogs to the 4A playoffs as the fourth seed, and ends Lindale’s season. Lindale had stepped up in many games over many sports over the course of the school year, seemingly having Kilgore’s number.
But not Tuesday night.
Kilgore will face North Lamar in the first, or bi-district round, of the playoffs, and it’ll be a best-of-three-game series. It’s in Quitman, and game one is Thursday night at 6 p.m. Game two will be Friday at 6, as well. If rain cancels Thursday, the first two games will both be Friday, starting at 6 p.m., and the third game, if needed, would be Saturday.
North Lamar will handle ticket sales online, and see Kilgore High School's Facebook page and kilgorenewsherald.com for any updates.
Kilgore had a 3-1 lead in the third inning, and it felt like things didn’t even heat up until Lindale took a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth (Lindale, ironically, was the home team for the game).
Whitington hit a double with an out in the top of the sixth, and made it to third, but Lindale managed to get out of the inning, still leading 5-3.
In the top of the seventh, Dennis hit a solo home run that got Kilgore within a score (5-4), and then Brown hit another, right after Dennis’s, to tie the game at five. The game went to extra innings, at that score.
In the eighth, Kilgore went 1-2-3, allowing Lindale to come to the plate with the chance to end the game, but couldn’t.
Kilgore came back up, in the ninth, and Dennis did it AGAIN – this time a home run to center field, giving Kilgore a 6-5 advantage. Brown singled, and then Lindale notched two outs.
In the bottom of the ninth, Lindale tied the game at 6-all, and with no outs, a Lindale player hit the ball to left field – Whitington runs, looking over her shoulder, and makes contact with the ball. It appeared to bounce off both forearms and into her hands, and she made an incredible catch. Kilgore would go on to get out of the inning, tied at 6.
The Lady ‘Dogs would get in front again. Genna Cavanaugh managed a single, then at second, Lindale elected to go for a pick-off. The ball hit something, ricocheted into center field, and Cavanaugh was able to get to her feet and race home, putting Kilgore up again, this time 7-6.
Villanueva got a hit, then was ruled safe at second on what turned out to be a controversial call. It appeared the home plate umpire was going to overrule the official on the field, but the two talked near the pitcher’s mound, and the official stood his ground: Villanueva was safe.
She would score on a hit by Cailey Brown. Cerenity Exline got a single, leaving bases loaded for Mylia Dean. Dean singles, an RBI single to give Kilgore a 9-6 lead.
With two outs, though, Haylee Brown delivered the shot heard ‘round – well, at least around Kilgore, a grand slam home run that put Kilgore up 13-6.
“Three outs,” Kirkpatrick told her team, as the huddled in front of the dugout at the 3-hour, 13-minute mark of the game. “Get. Three. Outs.”
It took a bit – Lindale was able to load the bases three times – but Hailey Brown connected with Cavanaugh for two outs at second base, giving up a couple of runs, but still outs, and then finally, a Lindale batter hit a pop-up that Cailey Brown ran from first behind the pitcher’s mound to catch. She was all smiles as her team mobbed her, as the game was over, the win secured.
Excluding last year’s season that was shortened due to COVID-19, these Kilgore seniors have reached the playoffs every year since they got to KHS as freshmen.
More on this game in Wednesday’s print edition of the News Herald, including photos, and on kilgorenewsherald.com.