'DOG DOMINATION! | Adkins homers twice, KHS excels in tourney

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Mitch Lucas, Kilgore News Herald, Texas
·10 min read
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Mar. 13—Kilgore High School baseball is turning back the calendar like it's — well, like it's 2019.

And who knew Donovan Adkins was a home run hitter? Guess what? He is.

The Diamond 'Dogs went through their own Whataburger Oil Belt Classic tournament at Driller Park last week without a loss (3-0), and are off to a 2-0 start in the Rusk / Brook Hill Tournament after a pair of wins on Thursday and early Friday afternoon. Kilgore beat Tatum, 10-3, on Thursday, and then beat Garrison, 4-3, on Friday, with Adkins hitting home runs in both games.

Coach Eugene LaFitte's Diamond 'Dogs are on a six-game winning streak — last season was ended early and abruptly due to COVID-19, and the Bulldogs were one of the hottest teams in the state in 2019, reaching the UIL Class 4A state tournament at the University of Texas in Austin that season.

Kilgore (7-2 overall this season, 1-0 in District 16-4A play) scored their biggest win of the week on Tuesday at home, a 15-0 drubbing of Cumberland Academy in the first district game of the season for both teams (see below).

At press time, the 'Dogs were to take on Frisco Legacy in the Rusk/Brook Hill tourney, and their schedule today, on the final day of the tournament, depends on how that game turned out. Get a complete wrap-up of Kilgore's tournament appearance this weekend on kilgorenewsherald.com.

They'll resume their regular district schedule this week with a Tuesday game at Bullard, a 6:30 p.m. start. Right before that, at 4:30 p.m., the JV Red plays Bullard. There's also a Thursday game next week: that one is a home game, against Henderson. The JV game starts at 4:30, and KHS-Henderson varsity is slated for a 7 p.m. first-pitch.

Kilgore 4, Garrison 3 (Rusk / BH tourney, Friday at Brook Hill School): Kilgore had to mount a bit of a comeback in this one, but did so, and it involved an Adkins long-ball.

With the Diamond 'Dogs trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Dalton McElyea put a ball in play to third, and reached on an error. Chris Ervin, who has been huge in the tournament, hit a line-drive singe to right field and McElyea went to second.

Then Jake Thompson helped his own cause, a bunt single that loaded the bases for Heath LaFleur, a single to left that scored McElyea and tied the game at 3.

Garrison got out of the inning without giving up the go-ahead run, but that lasted until the very first batter of the bottom of the sixth: Adkins, who hit the second pitch he saw out of the park over the left field fence. That gave Kilgore the 4-3 lead, and the win by the same score.

KHS finished the game with 10 hits, two by Adkins, two each by Ervin and LaFleur, and one each by Cade Pippen, Kyle Wheeler, Colby Wilkerson and Thompson.

Wilkerson pitched five innings, allowing three runs but only two earned on six hits, three walks and one strikeout. Thompson came on for an inning, and allowed no runs on no hits, no walks and struck out one.

Kilgore 10, Tatum 3 (Rusk/BH tourney, Thursday): The Bulldogs had not been scheduled to face the Tatum Eagles on Thursday; that game was supposed to happen today. But Tatum asked for their games to be changed, due to their school's appearance in the state basketball tournament, so the schedule was changed.

And then Adkins likely made Tatum regret it with a swing of the bat.

Adkins hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning, a part of a five-run Kilgore scoring spurt that blew the game open: the 'Dogs had led the game 4-3 before the fifth.

Kilgore went 1-2-3 in its half of the first inning, and Tatum woke up the Bulldogs in the bottom of it, plating a pair of runs on a double by Truitt Anthony, the pitcher.

The Bulldogs cut that lead in half in the second, loading the bases quickly: Ervin singled, Chase Lewis was hit by a pitch, and then Thompson singled for the load. Bryce Long's single just after that scored Ervin, allowing Kilgore to get within a run (2-1).

KHS overcame a hit and an error and got out of Tatum's bottom of the second without giving up a run, then took the lead for what turned out to be for good in the top of the third.

With an out in the books, McElyea singled to left field, and Ervin hit into a fielder's choice (McElyea was out at second and Ervin reached). A double by Lewis scored Ervin and tied the game at 2-all, and then Thomas Donham, running for Lewis, scored on a single by Thompson that gave the 'Dogs a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

In the fourth, Adkins got an infield single, and on the next at-bat, Pippen put the ball in play, and an infield error allowed Adkins to come around and score (4-2 KHS).

The Bulldogs did allow Tatum to get within a run (a line-drive double by Mason Whiddon in the bottom of the fourth scored Cayden Benson), but that's when the bottom fell out.

Ervin led off the top of the fifth with a double for Kilgore, and then went to third on a wild pitch.

With an out already on the scoreboard, Thompson hit a single to score Ervin, and then Wilkerson followed with a line-drive triple to center field that scored Thompson. That gave Kilgore a 6-3 lead.

Tatum recorded a second Kilgore out (a pop-up), but then Wheeler was hit by a pitch. Wilkerson was standing at third and Zach Porter at first (running for Wheeler) when Adkins turned his bat into a rocket launcher, a three-run home run to center field (9-3 Bulldogs).

In the top of the sixth, Kilgore added what would be the final run of the game, and if you guessed Ervin had a part in it, you'd be right.

Ervin smacked a triple to center field as the lead-off batter, and then scored on a single to center by LaFleur, capping a big night for the Bulldogs.

Kilgore finished with 15 hits, four of them by Thompson (4-for-4 with 2 RBI) and three by Ervin (who went 3-for-4, all extra-base hits, and an RBI). Adkins went 2-for-2 with 3 RBI, all on that home run. Pippen, McElyea, Lewis, LaFleur, Wilkerson and Long all each had one hit — Wilkerson's was that big triple.

Lewis started the game on the mound and went three innings; LaFleur came in for the final three innings, and ironically, both ended up throwing 41 pitches. Lewis allowed two runs, both earned, on three hits, a walk and had a strikeout. LaFleur allowed one run, earned, on two hits, no walks and struck out two.

Garrett Friend took the loss for the Eagles. He threw 4 2/3 innings, allowing nine runs (eight earned) on 11 hits, and struck out three. Friend didn't issue a walk. Anthony started the game on the mound and went 1 1/3 innings, giving up an earned run on four hits and recorded a strikeout.

Kilgore 15, Cumberland Adademy 0 (Tuesday): The Diamond 'Dogs had 11 hits, and McElyea, Jake Thompson and Wilkerson combined for a five-inning no-hitter in their District 16-4A opener, played here at Driller.

The Bulldogs beat Cumberland Academy in a run-ruled shortened game, wrapping it up in the middle of the fifth inning Tuesday night.

Kilgore scored four runs in the first inning, five in the second, four more in the third and two in the fourth, hitting the University Interscholastic League's 10-run-rule and then some.

After McElyea got Cumberland to hit three straight grounders for three quick outs in the top of the first inning, the Bulldogs went to work in the inning's bottom half. Adkins earned a lead-off walk, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Pippen (Adkins stole both second and third along the way).

McElyea followed with a double and then a second double, this one by Ervin, scored McElyea for a 2-0 Kilgore lead. They would get two more runs before the end of the inning. During an at-bat with Hunter Pipak at the plate, Ervin stole third, then scored on a wild pitch. Pipak earned a walk, then stole second. Chase Lewis doubled to left field, then scored on a grounder hit by Thompson. That gave the Bulldogs a 4-0 lead before CA finally ended the first inning.

Cumberland popped up for an out, grounded into a second out and then McElyea struck out the next batter to earn another Kilgore at bat.

Adkins walked again to lead off the second, and then Pippen walked, too. Adkins stole third and scored on a passed ball, and then Pippen scored on a sac fly by McElyea.

Still in Kilgore's half of the second, Ervin was hit by a pitch, and went to second on a ground out by Pipak. Lewis doubled and scored Ervin, and then, after Thompson was hit by a pitch, Bryce Long doubled for Kilgore and scored Lewis. The 'Dogs would get one more run in the inning: Kyle Wheeler hit an RBI single to score Thompson for a 9-0 Kilgore lead.

With an out in the books, McElyea walked in the bottom of the third, and Ervin singled to right field. Ervin went on to second on the throw and McElyea to third. McElyea scored on an RBI double by Pipak, and then, after Cumberland managed a strikeout for the second out of the inning, Thompson singled to center field, and went to second on the throw. That scored both Ervin and Pipak (12-0 Kilgore).

One last run came in: Zach Porter doubled to score Thompson, and give Kilgore the 13-0 lead that seemed way more unlucky for Cumberland than for the Bulldogs.

In what turned out to be Kilgore's final at bat of the night, the bottom of the fourth, Pippen walked to lead off, then scored on a triple by McElyea. He would score two batters later on a sac fly by Pipak, and then Kilgore got Cumberland to go 1 (pop out), 2 (fly out), 3 (strikeout) to end the top of the fifth and make the run-rule official.

In all, McElyea went 2-for-3, including a double and a triple; Ervin went 2-for-3; Lewis went 2-for-2; Thompson and Pipak each had a hit; and so did Long, Wheeler and Porter. Thompson had 3 RBI; Pipak and McElyea each had 2, and Wheeler, Ervin, Lewis, Long, Pippen, and Porter each had one.

McElyea threw the first three innings, striking out four and allowing no runs, no hits, and no walks. Thompson came in for an inning and allowed one walk, but no runs or hits, and struck out one, and Wilkerson pitched an inning, as well, striking out one, but allowing no hits, runs or walks.