Kilgore College opens fall softball season with tournament
The bar has been raised for the Kilgore College softball program.
Head coach Leslie Messina wants more, and the first step begins on Saturday for the Rangers when they open the fall season by hosting the KC College Round Robin Tournament.
Six games are on tap at The Ballpark at KC Commons, with the Rangers scheduled to play three times — at 9 a.m. vs. Jarvis, at 10:50 a.m. vs. Mountain View and at 6:10 p.m. vs. Eastern Oklahoma.
Other games scheduled are Eastern Oklahoma vs. Jarvis at 12:40 p.m., Mountain View vs. Jarvis at 2:30 p.m. and Mountain View vs. Eastern Oklahoma at 4:20 p.m.
Kilgore's win total increased from nine in 2014 to 12 in 2015 to 14 in 2016 before KC put together the best season in the five-year history of the program in 2017 — carving out a 33-23 record (19-9 in conference) and advancing to the Region XIV Conference Tournament for the first time in school history.
"I think we raised our expectations," Messina said of the 2017 campaign. "We know the possibility of having success is more realistic now than it was the first few years of the program. Now, we want to push it, move forward and make sure we achieve even more."
Kilgore is scheduled to play more than 20 games this fall, including another round robin event on Sept. 23 as well as home double headers against Hill College on Sept. 13 and Cisco on Sept. 27. KC will visit Weatherford, LeTourneau, Houston Baptist and Texas Women's University and will also compete in a tournament at UT Tyler.
"The key is going to be for us to learn who we are as a team," Messina said. "We'll have a lot of new faces, and we're going to miss a lot of two-year starters. On the infield, we have one returning player and we'll have new faces at every other position. In the outfield, we'll move people around and find the right combination that works for us. The fall is all about finding where to put the best players to help us win consistently."
KC returns all-conference and all-region pitcher Katy Worrell along with all-conference second baseman Taylor Christopher. Worrell was 19-13 inside the circle a year ago with a 3.21 earned run average, 149 strikeouts and 35 walks in 193.2 innings pitched. Christopher, who pitched 21.1 innings a year ago and will see time inside the circle this year also, hit. 333 in 2017 with eight doubles and 29 RBI.
"We have our No. 1 pitcher back with Katy, but we'll be trying to figure out some depth on the pitching staff," Messina said.
Cailon Palmer (.277, 5 RBI, 8 stolen bases), Laci Hambalek (.290, 4 HR, 5 doubles, 17 RBI) and Shelby Edwards (.341, 9 HR, 11 doubles, 35 RBI) all saw ample playing time a year ago.
Rounding out the roster this fall are sophomores Avery Hooks, Kaitlin Hunter and Kourtlin Hunter and freshmen Hailey Nash, Christina Herrera, Brianna Ynfante, Camille Freudensprung, Shelby East, Kelsey Ahart, Tori Tovar, Tanah Seely, Marissa Molina, Victoria Moreno, Brenna Ortiz, Makenna Bell, Alyssa Maldonado, Jayda Emerson and Mallery Stanley.
(Follow Jack Stallard on Twitter: @lnjsports)