Kilgore Rips Crandall + Reaches First Regional Final Since 2004
TYLER — The Kilgore Bulldogs weren’t going to let a little rain dampen a celebration that’s been 14 years in the making.
Kilgore unleashed a five-run, first inning and kept going, waiting out a 95-minute rain delay for a 15-4 win over Crandall on Friday afternoon at Mike Carter Field that finished off a playoff sweep.
The Bulldogs (27-4) advanced to the regional finals for the first time since 2004, and will face top-ranked and unbeaten Argyle (33-0) for the Class 4A Region II championship next week. The winner reaches the UIL state tournament, June 6-7, in Austin.
“We’ve relied on our pitching and our defense all year, and we’ve been able to score some runs,” said Kilgore first-year coach Eugene Lafitte. “We’ve gotta play better baseball next week, but I think our kids know that. We’re up for the task and ready for it.”
Ren Reynolds led Kilgore’s 16-hit attack by reaching base in all five plate appearances. He finished 4-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, two RBI’s, two steals, and five runs scored.
“I felt pretty good, I felt like I was seeing pretty much every pitch,” said Reynolds, who doubled on the first pitch of the game, setting the tone for the five-run inning. “I hit a first-pitch curveball the first pitch of the game, so any time you do that you feel pretty good.”
Kilgore didn’t stop there. The Bulldogs added a run in the second, and put together another five-run inning in the third to build an 11-1 lead.
Javan Smitherman, the winning pitcher in Game 1, had three hits and a team-high five RBI’s. Gus Witt singled three times and scored three runs, Harlee Biggs was 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI’s, and two runs, and Jayce McFarland had two hits, two RBI’s, and scored twice.
“We just wanted to attack the baseball; see the ball in the zone and attack it, don’t change anything we’ve been doing,” Lafitte said. “That was our plan and I thought we did a great job of executing.”
A strong thunderstorm blew into Tyler in the middle of the fifth inning with Kilgore holding a 12-4 lead, and Kilgore added three more runs in the seventh for good measure.
“We have a lot of people that play unselfish baseball,” Reynolds said. “They’re willing to bunt and get the ball down when they need to. And our pitchers are great, and the defense is good. If we get the bats going, I feel like we can beat anybody.”
Kilgore sophomore starting pitcher Chase Hampton allowed four runs in three-plus innings before giving way to reliever Brayden Johnson, who held Crandall scoreless for the game’s final four innings.
The Pirates collected 10 hits on the afternoon but stranded 13 runners.
Kilgore will have a few days to rest up for its biggest challenge of the season. Argyle blew past defending regional champion Pleasant Grove, 11-1, in their one-game playoff Thursday night.
“Why not us? We earned it, to be the one to play Argyle, and we’re not afraid,” Lafitte said. “They’re good, no doubt, but we’re good, too. We have four losses but our four losses are (by a combined five runs).”
Kilgore 15, Crandall 4
Class 4A Region II Semifinal Series
Game 2, Mike Carter Field, Tyler
Kilgore 515 010 3 — 15 16 1
Crandall 012 100 0 — 4 10 0
Pitchers and catchers
- Kilgore: Chase Hampton, Brayden Johnson (4) and Khalon Clayton.
- Crandall: Arturo Cindo, Jesse Rakestraw (1), Ben Houston (3), Cory Vollmer (7) and Kyle Brett.
WP — Johnson.
LP — Cindo.
- Kilgore: Ren Reynolds (2), Harte Biggs.
- Kilgore: Clayton.
- Crandall: Jerry Bryan.