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Kilgore Bulldogs drop Gilmer, stay atop district

By Hayden Henry
April 18, 2017 at 11:21 p.m.


KILGORE — Simply put, hungry is how Kilgore head coach Charles Foshee described his team.

A year after missing the playoffs, the Bulldogs have already checked that box this season. Now, the focus turns to the District 15-4A championship.

Behind five solid innings from starting pitcher Javan Smitherman, the Bulldogs took a big step toward that goal with a 9-5 win over Gilmer on Tuesday night at Driller Park.

Kilgore moves its overall record to 19-4 on the season, including a sterling 8-0 mark in district action.

"They're a fun bunch and they work hard every day, but they're hungry and they've been hungry for a long time," Foshee said. "It's been a while since Kilgore has been in this position in baseball and they know that.

"They still want to go out and get more respect."

With the win, Kilgore moves its magic number for the district title to one game, setting up a big showdown with Spring Hill, a 2-1, extra-inning winner over Chapel Hill on Tuesday. They will meet on Friday at Panther Field. Spring Hill sits at 6-2 in 15-4A action.

On Tuesday, the first five innings belonged to Smitherman, who struck out five, allowed one hit and walked one on 61 pitches, including 44 that hit the strike zone. Smitherman, who exited after the fifth with Kilgore up 9-0, delivered first-pitch strikes to 13 of the 17 batters he faced.

"He was hitting his spots and throwing his pitches for strikes, just really locating them well," Foshee said. "I think he had a little extra giddy-up tonight.

"We took a commanding lead in this one and needed to get some other guys in to get some innings. It was good to be able to do that tonight."

Smitherman's damage wasn't limited to the mound. At the plate, he finished 3-for-4 with an RBI double with courtesy runner Jake McFarland scoring three times.

Trea Clayton scored twice with a triple and Khalon Clayton had an RBI double for the Bulldogs.

Kilgore finished with seven hits and took advantage of six walks and three hit batters in the win, using eight stolen bases overall to eclipse 100 stolen bases on the season, Foshee said.

"We had a chance to break it open early in the game and got one run when the bases were loaded," Foshee said. "We can't do that but we made up for it later in the game.

"We were able to steal some bases and use our speed."

Kilgore built a 2-0 lead after the third inning before taking on four in the fourth and three more in the fifth.

For Gilmer, who plated five late-inning runs, Kollin Hurt went 2-for-3 with a triple and a double. Bryce Burns got the lone hit on Smitherman — a double — and added a triple in his final plate appearance.

Dimitri Fort finished with two RBIs, Kade Clemens laced an RBI triple and Red Jones had an RBI base-knock for the Buckeyes.

Smitherman retired the first six batters he faced in order, including striking out the side in the top of the second.

Kilgore loaded the bases in the second with no outs before Gilmer escaped the early threat with only one run surrendered on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.

The Bulldogs used the speed on the base paths in the third after a dropped third-strike allowed McFarland, running after a single from Smitherman, scored from second for a 2-0 lead.

Smitherman had an RBI double in the fourth before Trae Clayton and Deuce Ervin scored on a squeeze bunt attempt from Collin Pippen, which resulted in a Buckeye error for a 6-0 lead.

Kilgore pushed that lead to 9-0 in the fifth, scoring on two wild pitches and an RBI double for Khalon Clayton after Trea Clayton led off with a triple.

Hurt scored on a wild pitch, Fort followed with an RBI double and Clemens an RBI triple in the Gilmer sixth.

The Buckeyes tacked on two more in the seventh before, with the bases loaded and one out, Kilgore turned a game-ending 1-2-3 double play for its ninth-straight win.

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