After starting for four years on the Live Oak High baseball team, Lenni Kunert knows a few things about handling pressure on and off the diamond. However, none of that will come into play this weekend when he takes part in the LHSCA all-star baseball games.
The games will be focused on fun for players and fans, and virtually pressure-free. For Kunert, it will be one last chance to play against local standouts before many head off to play at the college level.
“It’s going to be awesome. I know a lot of the guys that are playing,” said Kunert, who has played with and against fellow all-stars Travis Swaggerty and Bailey Holstein of Denham Springs for years.
“Most of these guys will probably continue playing at the next level. It’s going to be fun to go out and compete with them.”
Denham Springs’ North Park recreation complex will host both all-star games. The first is at 7 p.m. Friday, and is followed by Saturday’s 1 p.m. contest.
Kunert was the offensive glue for Live Oak as it advanced to the second round of the playoffs before losing 2-0 in a best-of-three series at eventual state champion Barbe. The Eagles made it to the state final in 2014 only to drop that game to Barbe.
A Wichita State signee, Kunert put up impressive numbers during his senior season. He had a team-high 47 hits, while batting .485 with 10 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 24 RBIs.
“He’s definitely one of the better players I’ve had a chance to coach and be around,” Live Oak coach Greg Briggs said. “He’s a difference maker. He was the heart and soul of our offense the last couple of years. He’s just a gamer.”
Perhaps the best illustration of Kunert’s will to win came midway through his senior season while playing a tournament at Lafayette High. During a 5-4 loss to St. Thomas More in the opening game, Kunert was hit by a pitch, and left with the possibility of having a broken hand.
“I had to go to the ER (emergency room),” Kunert said. “Turns out it was just a really bad contusion. My hand was purple, but I wanted to play the next day, just to be a tough out even if I couldn’t get a hit.”
The next day against Lafayette, Kunert hammered the third pitch of the game over the center field wall for a home run, and Live Oak was on its way to an 8-3 win. Kunert finished 4-for-4, including the home run and two doubles.
The high point for Kunert was helping Live Oak reach the Class 5A state title game in 2014. The Eagles had missed the playoffs in two of the previous four seasons but put together their deepest playoff run since reaching the 4A quarterfinals in 2009.
“Even though we lost (7-1 to Barbe) it was a great thing to go to Sulphur (for the state tournament), and be in that atmosphere,” Kunert said. “That was always what I wanted to do. I wanted to make it to Sulphur. It was the best overall experience.”
Kunert will be able to set his sights on even bigger accomplishments when he continues his baseball career at Wichita State.