LAFAYETTE — Live Oak set the tone three pitches in to Friday night’s 8-3 win against Lafayette High.
Eagles leadoff hitter Lenni Kunert got ahead of Lions starter Emile Lege 2-0, and Kunert hammered Lege’s third pitch off the batter’s eye in straight-away center field for a leadoff home run.
“Our leadoff guy, Kunert, is pretty good,” Live Oak coach Greg Briggs said. “He got us started, and it just takes off from there.”
It was the first of three homers for Live Oak (10-5), who made Lafayette (11-4) pay for the mistakes it made.
The next home run came later in the first, immediately after Lions right fielder Ben Reynolds lost a slicing fly ball in the sun, the ball glancing off his glove and rolling to the right field corner with two outs.
Eagles left fielder Preston Faulkner made the Lafayette High pay for the error, lifting the first pitch he saw over the left field wall to give Live Oak a 3-0 lead after the top half of the first.
“They got seven hits, and three of them leave the yard,” Lions coach Sam Tauli said. “That’s the difference in the game.”
The Lions rallied for a run in the bottom half of the first when first baseman Hudson Laborde knocked in Antoine Duplantis with a sharp RBI single, but their mistakes cost them again.
Lafayette had the bases loaded with one out and attempted a squeeze play on a full count with shortstop Bo Hardin at the plate. But Hardin pulled his bat back on a called third strike, and third baseman Branson Audette was an easy out at the plate.
It was the first of two potentially big rallies defused by an Eagles’ double play, the second coming when a courtesy runner lost track of the outs in the fifth inning and was picked off third base on a fly ball to the first baseman.
Live Oak pitcher Hunter Merritt kept the Lions off balance for most of the game, firing 6.1 innings of three-run ball before giving way to Zach Hansen for the final two outs. Hansen induced a fly ball to center field and a ground ball to shortstop to end the game.
Merritt was consistently in the strike zone, which is what his coach wanted to see.
“I thought he did a good job of getting ahead,” Briggs said. “We went into the game talking about how you can’t walk these guys. You’ve got to make them swing it, and hopefully they hit it at us.”
Kunert and Faulkner harassed Lions pitching throughout. Faulkner hit another two-run homer, this one to the opposite field, in the third inning to give the Eagles a 5-1 lead. Kunert finished 4-for-4 with a home run, a double and three runs scored.
The Lions got a big day from their leadoff hitter Duplantis, an LSU signee, who went 4-for-4 with a double and three runs scored, but the rest of the Lions lineup went quiet, collecting only two hits.
“He does everything he can to help us,” Tauli said. “Defensively he’ll run down balls, he’ll steal bases, he does whatever he can do.
“We’ve got other guys in the lineup that are capable of doing the same thing, they’ve just got to get it done.”
Lafayette High will get a chance to rebound with a Saturday doubleheader, against Central at 10 a.m. and Walker at 2 p.m.