With hopes of getting to finish what it starts this time around, the Kilgore College softball team opened the 2021 season on the road Thursday with a doubleheader against Weatherford College.

That was the first pitch for what is scheduled to be at least a 46-game season, the program’s ninth.

KC lost both of those games, 5-0 and 8-0, respectively, and was to make its home debut on Friday, hosting Hill College. Those would have finished following the print deadline for this edition.

The Rangers had four hits and an error in that first game, the 5-0 loss. Lizzy Torres had a hit and so did Hannah Grumbles. Caleigh King and Madalyn Brewer each had a hit. Jenna Lewis took the loss, pitching all six innings. Lewis allowed five runs, three of them earned, four walks, six hits and struck out five.

In the second game, Weatherford scored five runs in the first two innings and had nine hits. Each team had two errors; KC had five hits.

For the Rangers, Madalyn Spears went 2-for-2; Dajah Montgomery, Torres, and Natalie Castillo each had a hit. Macie McGibney and Natalya Cuevas each pitched for KC. McGibney threw three innings, allowed four hits, three walks, three runs (two earned), and struck out three. Cuevas pitched 1 2/3 innings and allowed five runs, three earned, on four hits and three walks.

After Friday’s games at home, the Rangers are off until Wednesday, when they’ll go to Hill College in Hillsboro for a 1 p.m./ 3 p.m. doubleheader. They’re back home on Sunday, Feb. 14, for a double against Galveston College, starting at noon.

A year ago, Kilgore College had gotten off to a 3-1 start in Region XIV Conference play (10-17 overall) when COVID-19 halted the season in March.

A lot has happened since then, not the least of which was a coaching change at the top.

Leslie Messina, who was the team’s first coach and built the Ranger program from the ground up, resigned for personal reasons shortly after the season ended. Trish Robinson, who had been an assistant at KC since 2016, took over on an interim bases and later had the interim tag removed.

She’ll be assisted by for Kilgore High School and KC player and Kilgore native Amber Williams.

“It’s indescribable,” Robinson said of the excitement level surrounding the season opener. “Everyone is just excited to put that uniform on, to get on the field and to see what we have.”

KC managed to get in a successful fall season, finishing with a 9-0-1 record. Returning players Calleigh King, Hannah Grumbles, Madalyn Spears, Marissa Medina, Natalie Castillo and Jenna Lewis all saw action in the fall.

King hit .353 with five RBI, Grumbles .579 with a home run and 12 RBI, Spears .222 and Medina .533 with a home run and five RBI and Castillo .667 with three RBI.

Lewis was 3-0 inside the circle in the fall with a 1.16 ERA, 31 strikeouts and two walks in 18 innings.

As a team in the 10 fall games, KC hit .430 with seven home runs, 17 doubles and two triples, stealing 10 of 13 bases and averaging 8.8 runs per contest. The Ranger pitching staff had a collective 2.68 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 15 walks in 57.1 innings pitched.

“I think the attitude and work ethic from the fall until now is much better, and I think that has to do with the season being taken away from us the way it was last year,” Robinson said. “We just need to get some games under out belts and figure out some little things pitching-wise and settle on our starting lineup. Just need that consistency to help us get in a groove by the time conference play rolls around.”

News Herald sports editor Mitch Lucas contributed to this story.

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