May 8—Playoff baseball means pressure, and not a sigh of relief breathed by anyone — not coaches, not players, not fans, not the ticket lady, and not the peanut man — until the game is over and the "good guys" win.
Unfortunately that didn't happen in game one of the University Interscholastic League Class 4A first-round series on Thursday. Liberty-Eylau — dealt the Bulldogs a 3-1 loss at Leopard Field in Texarkana. Game two was to be Friday night at Kilgore's Driller Park, and if Kilgore could win and force game three, it was to be played 30 minutes after.
The winner of the series moves on to the area, or second, round of the 4A playoffs and will face either Wills Point or Kaufman.
Kilgore is 15-11 on the season so far, although that hardly matters — the time is now.
Coach Eugene Lafitte's Diamond 'Dogs played a crisp game this time out, although they never led. Pitching for both teams kept it a scoreless game until L-E got two runs in the bottom of the fourth.
L-E's Nate Moore hit a ground ball into an error, and then the following batter, Gage Bellatti, hit a fly ball out to center field that was easily handled by Kilgore's Donovan Adkins.
Zach Brush hit a single, which also got Moore to second, obviously, and then Bryce Blackwell hit the ball back to Adkins, who again made the play in center and gave the Diamond 'Dogs two outs, with two on.
Burles singles, a grounder, and tried to leg out a double. But a throw from Chris Ervin in left field to Jake Thompson at first put him in trouble, and he was thrown out at second. Unfortunately for Kilgore, both Moore and Brush scored on the play to give the Leopards a 2-0 lead.
Neither team would score in the fifth, and L-E added run number three in the bottom of the sixth, a two-out solo home run by Bellatti (3-0 Liberty-Eylau).
Trailing by three runs in its last at-bat, Kilgore wouldn't go away. Colby Wilkerson hit a grounder to third, and reached on an error. Chase Lewis followed that with a single, sending courtesy runner Ryan Beddingfield to second — two on, no outs.
Thomas Hattaway hit a fly ball to right that was fielded for an out, holding Beddingfield and Zach Porter (running for Lewis) at first and second.
And then Kyle Wheeler, who had a good game in a loss last week to Central Heights, smacked a line-drive single into right field — that scored Beddingfield, leaving Porter and Wheeler on base, with an out.
But L-E got out of the game on the next play, a ball hit by Adkins that they turned into a double-play.
Each team committed only one error, and Kilgore had more hits than L-E in the contest (7-5).
The Bulldogs had their chances. Kilgore got Ervin into scoring position at second base — Ervin had been hit by a pitch, and then advanced to second on a single by Hunter Pipak, but he was caught attempting to steal third.
For Kilgore in the contest, Wheeler and Cade Pippen each went 2-for-3, and Adkins, Pipak, Lewis each had one. No L-E player had more than one hit.
Lewis pitched a complete game for Kilgore (79 pitches) and had a solid outing. He gave up three runs but just one earned, on five hits, and two walks. He struck out two. Bellatti pitched the seven-inning game for L-E, allowing seven hits, but no walks, and allowed just the one run. He struck out seven Kilgore batters on 97 pitches.