AUSTIN — We’re not done.
It was a simple but quick message Kilgore head coach Eugene Lafitte delivered to his team after its Class 4A state semifinal game. It was a message that could’ve been applied during Wednesday’s game as well.
Kilgore brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Sweeny was there for the final out to take a 5-1 win to advance to the Class 4A state championship game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. Sweeny will face Argyle at 6:30 p.m. today.
“You’re one of four teams left in the state and it just didn’t go our way,” Lafitte said of his message to the team. “You can be talented and all of that, but there is a little luck involved. They made diving catches and things just didn’t drop our way. That’s okay. That’s baseball and that’s life.
“I can tell you we’re going to work hard to get back here. We’re not done.”
Kilgore, whose best season since 1972 concludes at 32-8, has continued to build to the state’s final four over the past few seasons after a run to the regional final a year ago.
“I told the seniors that they have raised the bar yet again for this program,” Lafitte said. “The underclassmen need to see that climb and work to stay at this level.
“That’s a program. That’s not a baseball team, but that’s a program and that’s what we want at Kilgore.”
Sweeny struck first right out of the gate in the top of the first inning. Kilgore answered that run in the home half of the first, but didn’t have an answer the rest of the way.
Jackson Kiddy, a Rice signee, struck out five and scattered four hits in 6.2 innings of work for Sweeny, which broke open a one-run lead with a three-run frame in the fifth.
Kilgore finished the day with four hits, including one each in the sixth and seventh innings.
“I don’t think he kept us off balance a whole lot. We put the ball in play, but we just hit it right at them,” Lafitte said. “We had a line drive here, a line drive there. In this game, a foot makes a huge difference.”
Kilgore junior Jayce McFarland led offensively with a 2-for-3 day at the plate, including a triple and the Bulldogs’ lone RBI. In the field, McFarland had a double play that went 9-5 off a strong throw from right field.
Connor Martin and Khalon Clayton had the other two hits for Kilgore, which finished 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
For Sweeny, Quinton Martin finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and flashed the leather in right field as well with a diving catch to rob Kilgore of extra bases.
Braden Norris and Cord Fillip also had multi-hit days for Sweeny, which finished 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Kilgore junior starting pitcher Chase Hampton struck out five and walked four with seven hits in 4.1 innings of work. Fellow underclassman Brayden Johnson worked 2.2 innings of scoreless relief.
After an eight-pitch leadoff walk, Martin laced a two-out single through the left side to put Sweeny ahead quickly, 1-0, in the top of the first. The first three runs of the game combined would come with two outs.
Kilgore senior Gus Witt drew his first of two walks in the bottom of the first, Clayton followed with a single and McFarland tied it up with a single to center field.
That would be it for Kilgore.
Sweeny upped its lead to 2-1 in the third inning off a bases-loaded walk, the only run pushed across after loading the bases with no outs.
Meanwhile, Kiddy went to work and allowed three Kilgore baserunners from the second inning through the sixth.
Sweeny sent eight batters to the plate in a three-run, four-hit fifth inning, highlighted by a two-RBI, stand-up double from Quinton Martin. Sweeny threatened for more in the sixth and seventh after putting two runners on with no outs. Kilgore escaped both threats.
Trailing by four runs, Kilgore loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh before Sweeny reliever Caden Homniok got a game-ending fly-out to right field.
Kilgore graduates seniors Deuce Ervin, Chris LaRoux, Cole Thompson, Payton Fyffe, Connor Martin, Clayton and Witt.
“We proved we belonged here,” Lafitte said. “Sweeny is a good team and we’re equal to them. Things just went their way today.”