The next sport up to bat at KC is women’s fast-pitch softball with Leslie Messina as the head coach.
Messina comes from Texarkana College where she was the head softball coach for eight years. TC announced in May that all sports, including men’s and women’s golf, baseball and softball, were being cut due to financial issues.
Messina soon had offers from Tyler Junior College, Arkansas Tech and KC.
Messina decided KC was the best fit.
“The people at Kilgore College have demonstrated their commitment to the program. Their commitment level has far exceeded the other schools I looked at, and I knew they were excited for it and they would give us the support we needed and they wanted to do it right, and I liked that,” Messina said.
Sophomore Capria Howell, injured at the time of the announcement, was at ease that she would not have to transfer anywhere without softball.
“When we were talking (Messina) asked us if she went, if we would go with her and basically all of us agreed,” Howell said.
Messina discussed her choices with the team and in May she told the team that KC was the best place for them.
“She said the whole time her mind was set on Kilgore. She always said how everyone was so nice, and they were so ready to have softball,” Howell said.
KC will take Texarkana College’s place in the Region XIV East Conference. As for being KC’s first-ever softball team, the women are excited to start a tradition. The first game for the fall season is 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Stream-Flo Park against DFW Firecrackers. The entrance is free to students with their KC ID. Stream-Flo Park is next to Driller Park, located at 1800 S. Commerce St. in Kilgore.
“We want to start a legacy. And also win to show how thankful we are for them to take us as quick as they did. Most schools take a year to recruit and they took us right away,” Howell said.
Sophomores Kathryn Lambert and Jessie Long were recruited from Lon Morris College which also had sport cuts.
“We’re really thankful, because we all came out of bad situations and we ended up with a really great opportunity. If we start as champions, Kilgore’s always going to be the place to go for softball,” Lambert said.
With big aspirations for the fall season, the team has been working hard in two-a-days.
“Our goal for the immediate year is to win a conference title. We have a good core of people who came with us from Texarkana and we have some good sophomore transfers from other schools in our region,” Messina said. “We were able to get some of our original commitments for Texarkana to come and some of the area kids we got at tryouts.”
The fall schedule is non-conference, but the team is not treating it as an easy pre-season. Messina believes the talent is there, but the team just needs to get in better shape.
“In our first year, we don’t just want to compete. We want to win a conference title and we want to be one of the best teams in Region XIV that is competing for the title year end and year out,” Messina said.
The acquisition of the softball program satisfies the federal Title IX mandate, making an equal number of sports available to men and women.