The grind of a regular season in Texas high school softball is enough, but the Kilgore High School Lady Bulldogs are signing up for more – and hopefully, even more after that.
Kilgore finished the regular season tied with Lindale for fourth place in the University Interscholastic League’s District 16-4A. The top four teams in each district go to the playoffs, something Kilgore has done the last three seasons (except COVID-halted 2020, when they didn’t take place).
The next step: a play-in game with Lindale to decide which of those teams from the logjam that is 16-4A will move on to the postseason. That game, because of rain and storms that had been forecasted for Friday, will be Monday at 6 p.m., right here at Stream-Flo Field beside Driller Park.
KHS coach Cheyenne Kirkpatrick won a coin flip to seal home field advantage.
Kirkpatrick and her Lady Bulldogs beat Chapel Hill earlier this week, and got help from Lindale falling to Henderson, and wound up in a tie for fourth place.
“We are very capable of winning, as long as we stay focused and have the want-to mindset, we can win,” said Kirkpatrick, herself a former Lady Bulldog, from a softball family.
They’re playing for the right to face North Lamar in the first round of the 4A playoffs. Should Kilgore beat Lindale, that playoff against North Lamar would be a best-of-three-game series, played in its entirety at Quitman next Thursday and Friday.
Against Chapel Hill on Tuesday in Kilgore’s 14-4 win, the Lady Bulldogs trailed 1-0 going into the bottom of the first, but got on a roll: Kilgore scored four runs in the first, two in the second inning, three in the third, four in the fifth and one more in the sixth – 14 runs on 15 hits.
Kilgore did commit four errors, but Lindale balanced it with three of their own.
Alyssa Whitington went 4-for-4 with a double, and had 2 RBI. Genna Cavanaugh went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI; Haylee Brown and Bailey Hedges each went 1-for-4, and Brown’s hit was a double; Hedges had 3 RBI.
Nawny Sifford had two hits, including a double, and Cerenity Exline had two, as well, and one was a triple.
Sifford pitched all six innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits, walked one and struck out two.
Offensively this year, Kilgore has been pretty solid. Four players – seniors Whitington, Cavanaugh, Hedges, and junior Cailey Brown – have played in all 24 games this season. Whitington has 20 hits in 62 at-bats, a batting average of .323, seven of them doubles, with 12 RBI. Cavanaugh has 29 hits in 64 at-bats (.453), with 7 RBI and two doubles.
Hedges had 20 hits this year in 54 at-bats (.370), 19 RBI, seven doubles and three triples, and Brown had 16 hits in 49 at-bats (.327), and two doubles, with 9 RBI.
Jaycee Villanueva and Haylee Brown each played in 23 games. Villanueva hit .375, with 21 hits on the season. She had 14 RBI, three doubles and five triples. Haylee Brown had 19 hits (.322), 6 RBI, seven doubles and four triples.
Outfielder Jada Dennis played in 22 games, and had 11 hits, 11 RBI, a double, four triples, and a home run, her first at the varsity level. She finished with a .256 average.
Among the players who played in at least 23 games, Cavanaugh led the Lady Bulldogs in on-base percentage (.485) and in stolen bases (25). Among those same players, Hedges struck out the least (four times all season).
Sifford and Malia Dean, both freshmen, pitched almost every inning for the Lady ‘Dogs this year. Sifford went 5-9 with 17 appearances, and 10 complete games. She had an earned-run average (ERA) of 5.40 and had 38 strikeouts. Dean went 2-6 with 13 appearances, and had an ERA of 6.67, with 13 strikeouts.