Live Oak’s baseball team is right where players Justin Webb, Gage Lockwood and Lenni Kunert envisioned when they talked over the summer.
“I knew we’d be good this season from our workouts last summer,” said second baseman Lockwood, who along with center fielder Webb are the two senior starters for the 30-9 Eagles, who will make their first appearance in the Class 5A division of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Tournament.
“This is the closest team that I’ve ever been a part of in my life. It’s been a real special season.”
Tenth-seeded Live Oak defeated second-seeded Brother Martin (32-5) in a three-game quarterfinal series that ended Sunday with a 10-6 victory as the Eagles smashed 12 hits. Live Oak dropped the first game 6-2 but roared back with a 2-0 second-game victory.
Live Oak will meet third-seeded Jesuit (32-4) in a Class 5A semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday at Sulphur’s McMurry Park. Top-seeded Barbe (37-2) battles fifth-seeded St. Amant (29-8) at 7 p.m. in the other semifinal.
Live Oak also starts seven juniors, including Kunert and shortstop Michael Claverie. In 2013, many of those players were starters, and Live Oak sometimes had trouble winning the close games.
An opening week matchup this season with East Ascension also set the tone. Live Oak prevailed 2-0 in nine innings.
“Last year we weren’t a real consistent team, and things sometimes fell apart late in games,” Live Oak coach Greg Briggs said. “We won some games early this year that gave us confidence. This is a very resilient and tough group. I’m proud of the guys.
“There is a lot of excitement around school and our Live Oak community about this baseball team. It means a lot to us to make the state tournament.”
Kunert, an LSU baseball commitment, said his team is not satisfied with just making it to the state tournament.
“Anything can happen at state,” Kunert said. “I think we can go out and get a ring. We’ve got just as good a shot as anybody.”
Kunert is a versatile leadoff man who plays third base, shortstop or pitcher. Claverie brings toughness to the team. He played last weekend with 10 stitches in his leg. Lockwood has good chemistry with both players and is looking to turn double plays.
“We have one of the best infields in the state,” Lockwood said. “Our team is built around solid pitching and sound defense.”
Key Live Oak pitchers include Zach Hansen, Hunter Merritt, Claverie and closer Kunert.
“Lenni can do it all,” said Webb, the outfield leader. “This season has been an awesome experience. We know we can win the close games.
“It would be really cool to bring back a state title. We want to leave a legacy for future Live Oak teams.”