Kilgore Earns Thrilling 2-1 Series Opening Win Over Crandall
TYLER — The Kilgore Bulldogs scratched across two runs in the bottom of the sixth, then escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to earn a thrilling 2-1 win over Crandall in Game 1 of their Class 4A Region II semifinal series Wednesday night at Mike Carter Field.
The Bulldogs (26-4) will go for the sweep in Game 2, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday back in Tyler.
The series opener might have only yielded three runs between the two teams, but it was no without its fair share of drama.
There was a 50-minute lighting delay following the top of the first, on-field arguments and appeals from both head coaches in the late stages, and finally a frantic sixth and seventh inning.
Crandall (25-11) had runners at first and second with one out, trailing by a run in the seventh. Jerry Bryan then singled to Kilgore right fielder Jayce McFarland, who fired home to catcher Khalon Clayton.
Pirates runner Arturo Cindo was caught in a rundown between third and home, was initially called out by the third base umpire when Clayton went for the tag. Crandall coach Keith Klaus appealed the play to the home plate umpire, who overruled the out call.
“(Klaus) appealed that we didn’t have a tag,” Kilgore coach Eugene Lafitte said. “The home plate umpire said he saw daylight which means he didn’t have a tag. And I appealed that (Cindo) was out of the baseline. It’s a judgment call.”
With the bases now loaded and one out, Crandall’s Jake Redding hit a grounder to first baseman Harlee Biggs, whose throw home was fielded on a hop by Clayton for the second out.
“We threw dart from about 55 feet and it went 45 feet, so Clayton did a great job scooping that ball and staying on the plate,” Lafitte said.
Tanner Killingsworth then flew out to center field for the game’s final out.
“Credit (Crandall) right there, they don’t stop,” Lafitte said. “And that’s what I told our kids, ‘they aren’t gonna stop.’” We’ve got to weather that because there’s no quit in them, and when you’re this far in the playoffs that’s what you expect — teams like that.”
Kilgore, after stranding four men in scoring position through the game’s first five innings, finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth.
Biggs and Clayton opened the inning with consecutive singles, and were moved up on McFarland’s sacrifice bunt. Connor Martin tied the game on a RBI groundout to the shortstop, and Elijah Williams dropped down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt and beat the throw to first, giving the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.
“I thought we hit the ball well tonight, we hit it right at them,” Lafitte said. “We’ve gotta regroup and hopefully get our emotions back under us, come back Friday and finish this thing out.”
Kilgore starting pitcher Javan Smitherman, who had allowed only five hits in his previous three playoff starts, allowed back-to-back singles in the first inning. Crandall then went ahead Gabe Cortez’s sac fly to center.
The game was delayed between half-innings by a pair of lighting strikes within a 10-mile radius of the ballpark.
One play resumed, Smitherman retired the next nine Crandall batters he faced, and finished with 10 strikeouts in the complete-game win.
“In the first inning I think he was amped up, and he didn’t have control of his off-speed stuff,” Lafitte said of Smitherman. “Honestly, I think the delay kinda helped him. As bad I didn’t want the delay, I think it helped him just take a deep breath to find his off-speed stuff. He’s our bulldog on the mound, he’s our senior, he’s our stud, he’s our man.”
Crandall lefty Sean Galloway allowed a pair of runs and eight hits with three strikeouts in six innings.
Kilgore will turn to sophomore Chase Hampton on the mound in Game 2, while Crandall is expected to go with Cory Vullmer.
“Hampton’s done a great job for us this year,” Lafitte said. “Last week he threw a no-hitter, he’s a great No. 2 for us. He’d be a lot of people’s No. 1.”
Kilgore 2, Crandall 1
Class 4A Region II Semifinal Series
Game 1, Mike Carter Field, Tyler
Crandall 100 000 0 — 1 6 1
Kilgore 000 002 x — 2 8 0
Pitchers and catchers
- Crandall: Sean Galloway and Kyle Brett.
- Kilgore: Javan Smitherman and Khalon Clayton.
WP — Smitherman.
LP — Galloway.
- Kilgore: Ren Reynolds.