The Kilgore Bulldogs are hours away from their first state tournament game in 47 years.
Kilgore (32-7 on the season) will take on Sweeny (30-9) today at 1 p.m. in the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A state baseball tournament. The game will be played at UFCU Disch-Falk Field at the University of Texas in Austin.
It’s the first of two semifinal games today – Argyle (38-1-1) will face La Vernia (28-11) at 4 p.m.
All of this is apparently weather-permitting; area forecasters are expecting the Austin area could get 1-2 inches of rain today, so the UIL could have to make a decision. But barring a weather change, the semifinals will be played today. The championship game is also to be played at Disch-Falk, and that will be Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.
It’s single-elimination, so the losers of today’s games are out. The two winners will meet Thursday for the 4A state title.
For those who plan to go, the address for Disch-Falk is 1300 E. Martin Luther King Boulevard, in Austin, of course. Tickets are $12 each for adults, $7 each for students, or an all-tournament pass is offered for $35 (the other tournaments, however, are at Dell Diamond in Round Rock; only the 4A tournament is at UT). Parking is available in the East Campus garage across from the stadium.
If you can’t go, hear Ragin’ Red Broadcasting call the game live on KDOK 105.3-FM and 1240-AM in Kilgore; on 107.9-FM out of Henderson; and 101.9 in the Longview area. The game can also be heard on the KDOK website, kdokradio.com, and on the Kilgore College access channel of Kilgore Cable.
For a subscription fee, the game is streamed online at nfhsnetwork.com.
Kilgore has been off for six days, having last played Thursday in a game and a half against Benbrook. The Diamond ‘Dogs swept the Bobcats. Kilgore is 10-2 in the playoffs so far. They’ve knocked off Liberty-Eylau, Wills Point, Pleasant Grove, Melissa, and Benbrook.
It’s been well-documented this is Kilgore’s first trip to the state tournament since 1972. Their other two appearances were in 1960, and 1971. The Bulldogs got within one round of state in 2004, then again in 2018.
Kilgore, which has won its district championship for three straight years, is coached by Eugene Lafitte, in his second season. He’s assisted by Joey Pippen, Jason Gunn and Josh Riley. KHS is 59-13 under Lafitte in two seasons.
A state title win would be the first in the history of the baseball program, but it hasn’t been long since a Kilgore team won a state title – that was the boys soccer program, back in 2017.
The Bulldogs are led by a great combination of pitchers, including Texas Tech commit Chase Hampton, with a 12-2 record and 1.29 ERA this season. Hampton has allowed just 40 hits in 81 innings all season, and walked just 30. He’s got 154 strikeouts.
At the plate over 39 games, it’s hard to top recently-graduated Gus Witt, who will continue his baseball career at Weatherford College. Witt is batting .486 with 35 singles, 10 doubles, four triples and three home runs. He’s got 46 RBI.
Sweeny’s path to the playoffs has seen their Bulldogs beat Scarborough, Bridge City, Columbia, Carthage, and Robison, in that order. Sweeny is led by pitchers Jackson Kiddy and Caden Homniok. Sweeny, coached by Mark Durham, lost the state title game to Argyle last year.
Hominok is headed to Texas A&M next year. Homniok has 10 wins this year, 79 strikeouts, and a 1.49 ERA in 59 innings pitched.
See kilgorenewsherald.com later today for coverage of today’s Kilgore-Sweeny game.