TYLER – In the first of two games Thursday night here at Mike Carter Field against Melissa, the Kilgore High School Bulldogs seemed to have little go right.
In the second, the Diamond ‘Dogs had little to go wrong.
It was the classic split of games one and two of this best-of-three-game UIL Class 4A Region II semifinal, with Melissa outlasting Kilgore, 2-0, in the first game, and Kilgore putting it on Melissa, 14-3, in the second.
Graduation ceremonies were to take place Friday night for Kilgore High School (at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium), so the series’ deciding game three will be today at 3 p.m., back at Mike Carter Field. See kilgorenewsherald.com tonight for an update.
The playoffs are over for the loser of today’s contest. The winner advances to the Region II final next week against either Benbrook or Kilgore’s district rival Spring Hill – that’s one step away from representing the region in the 4A state tournament in Austin.
Melissa 2, Kilgore 0 (game one): Kilgore was held to three hits in a game that seemed to be frustrating not only for the KHS players and coaches, but for the fans.
Melissa pitcher Haydn Schafer held the Bulldogs at bay, for the most part, for six innings. Kilgore scattered three hits – Jerrick “Deuce” Ervin, catcher Khalon Clayton and Jayce McFarland each had one – but the closest the Bulldogs came to scoring was in the bottom of the fifth, with Melissa up just 1-0. Donovan Adkins drew a two-out walk, and got to third on a single by Ervin. But Schafer got Conner Martin to pop out, and escape the threat.
In the top of the sixth, C. Defury singled, then went to second on a double by T. Womack, and scored on a throw to third in an attempt to get Womack out. That gave Melissa an insurance run, 2-0.
Kilgore managed two base runners (Gus Witt and McFarland) in the bottom of the sixth, but couldn’t bring them in, and in the seventh, had no one reach. Melissa celebrated the win, and the teams rested briefly before game two.
Chase Hampton threw the first five innings, taking the loss for KHS. He allowed one earned run that scored on a balk, four hits, and walked three. He had eight strikeouts. Brayden Johnson came on in relief, and allowed one earned run on two hits, walked no one, and struck out one.
Kilgore 14, Melissa 3 (game two): As different from game one as daylight and dark. Kilgore finished with 15 hits (a triple each from McFarland and Witt, and a double each from Cade Pippen and Cole Thompson), and Melissa committed five errors.
Kilgore (29-7 on the season so far) scored four runs in both the first and seventh innings.
Witt went 2-of-3 with the triple and had 4 RBI. Martin, McFarland, and Thompson each went 2-for-4 – Martin and Thompson each had an RBI and McFarland had two.
Adkins went 3-for-3 and 2 RBI. Ervin had a hit and an RBI; Clayton had a hit and 2 RBI; Hampton had a hit and an RBI; and Pippen had the double.
Kilgore took a 4-0 lead before Melissa even had its first at-bat. The ‘Dogs, likely fueled a bit by their own frustrations, got a single from Ervin to start the
game, and then moved Ervin up to second on a sacrifice bunt laid down by Martin. Witt singled him home for a 1-0 lead.
Clayton reached on a fielder’s choice, as the Cardinals opted to throw Witt out at second. A.J. Smith came on to run for Clayton, and then scored on a triple by McFarland.
Kilgore led 2-0, and that quickly turned to 3-0 when Cole Thompson doubled and scored McFarland. And they’d add one more when Hampton singled to score Thompson.
Witt struck out Melissa’s first batter, struck out another, and allowed a hit and a walk in the first inning before getting Schafer to ground out to shortstop Dalton McElyea.
In the top of the second, the Cardinals’ mistakes began to mount rapidly. Adkins singled to center field, and then went to third on an error by the center fielder. Ervin then put the ball in play and reached on an error – that scored Adkins for a 5-0 Kilgore advantage.
There would be two more Melissa errors in the inning, but they escaped further damage on the scoreboard by turning a double play.
Melissa finally got a run in the bottom of the second. G. Hurst managed a one-out double, and went to third on a passed ball. He scored on a single by T. Brooks, but the Cards still trailed 5-1.
Another run came home for KHS in the fourth. Pippen doubled to begin the inning, and scored on a sac fly by Adkins (6-1). It would hit 7-1 in the top of the fifth – Witt walked, stole second, and then went to third on a passed ball that allowed Clayton to reach (a dropped third strike). Witt scored on a single by McFarland (7-1).
In the top of the sixth, Adkins got a one-out single, went to second on an error and to third on a single by Martin. He scored on a sac fly, and then Martin and Ervin, who was hit by a pitch, both scored on a single by Clayton (10-3).
The pile-on wasn’t over yet, as the seventh inning began well into the night. Thompson singled to start the top of the seventh, and scored on a single by Adkins. Ervin walked and then Adkins scored on a single by Martin, and both Ervin and Martin scored on Witt’s triple.
Witt started and got the win. He threw 5 2/3 innings and allowed three runs, two of them earned, on nine hits, four walks and struck out five. Johnson threw 1/3 an inning and allowed no runs, hits, or walks, and struck out one. Spencer Thompson threw an inning and struck out one, and allowed a walk.
Technically, Kilgore is this series and another series win away from reaching the state tournament. But the Bulldogs have had lengthy playoff runs in each of the last three seasons (2017, 2018, and 2019). Kilgore set a new single-season record for wins in ’17, reaching the third round, then topped that by setting another single-season wins record last year and got within a round of making the state tournament (they lost to Argyle).
This year, the ‘Dogs have 29 wins – another single-season wins record – and plan to still be in the postseason when game three concludes tonight.
Eugene Lafitte’s first season as head coach at KHS was last year, so in his two seasons, the Diamond ‘Dogs are currently 66-13, a remarkable achievement.