Well-deserved

Five Kilgore softball players earned academic all-state honors, and Mackenzie Cavanaugh was named team MVP at their banquet on Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of KILGORE HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL)

A decade of futility has turned around, and now the Kilgore High School softball program has made the UIL playoffs the last two seasons.

For that, and many other reasons, Kilgore’s Lady Bulldogs were honored Tuesday night at the program’s banquet, held this year at First Presbyterian Church. In addition, the District 16-4A all-district team, chosen by the coaches, has been announced.

All-district award-winners were recognized, of course, at the banquet, and particularly the team’s academic all-state and academic all-district award-winners Hailee Jo Lewis, Destiney Mendez, Bailey Downing, manager Sydney Barnes, and Mackenzie Cavanaugh.

Kilgore took home one of the all-district superlatives: defensive player of the year went to senior Hailee Jo Lewis. Pitcher Kristen Wilson, infielder Miah Thomas and outfielder Mackenzie Cavanaugh were all selected all-district first teamers (Thomas was unanimous). Infielders Genna Cavanaugh and Bailey Hedges were named all-district second team, and Bailey Downing, Jaycie Villanueva, and Tra’Kaila Graves were all named all-district honorable mention.

Thomas batted .429 in district play and had 14 stolen bases; Genna Cavanaugh batted .351 in district play and had a .919 fielding percentage; Hedges batted .389 with 11 RBI; and Villanueva had 10 RBI with a .300 batting average.

The team awards were also presented, and senior Mackenzie Cavanaugh was named the overall most valuable player. Cavanaugh batted .456 and was perfect – 1.000 – in fielding percentage.

“She was always willing to do what’s best for the team,” coach Cheyenne Kirkpatrick said. “She played all spots in the outfield, mid-infield, (batted) mid-lineup, lead-off, or wherever needed. And always gave a full effort.”

The team’s defensive MVP was another senior, Hailee Jo Lewis, who signed with the Kilgore College softball program Wednesday. Lewis had a .994 fielding percentage, 165 put-outs, and 17 RBi this season. In her career at KHS, she missed one softball game, ever, and had a .958 fielding percentage, 470 put-outs and 51 RBI.

Junior Kristen Wilson was named the team’s offensive MVP. She finished the season with a .400 batting average, 30 RBI and four home runs.

This year’s heart and hustle award went to Bailey Hedges, who had a .372 batting average, two home runs and 24 RBI. Also, the fighting Bulldog award went to Bailey Downing. Downing, who was injured late in the season but worked her way back into the lineup, finished with 79 stolen bases, 82 runs scored and 38 RBI in her KHS career.

Destiney Mendez was named most improved. The senior scored 14 runs and had nine stolen bases in 2019, and in the playoff game against North Lamar, Mendez had the clutch hit and scored Kilgore’s first run.

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