Just over a year ago, Kyle Poynter was struggling with his grades and had a limited role on the Lebanon baseball team.
In 365 days, he’s done a complete about-face.
Now living with his extended family in Houston, Poynter has straightened up his life away from the field and is on top of his game on it. He was recently named to the second team of the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association all-state baseball team.
Poynter was a welcome addition to the Tigers, leading the team in nearly every batting and pitching category as they advanced to the district championship game.
Not bad for a player who began the previous season with his old team as merely a pinch runner.
“He was by far our top batter and pitcher. The numbers prove that,” Houston coach Brent Hall said. “We had to have him this year to be successful.”
Texas County gave Poynter a much-needed change of scenery. He said he was struggling to keep his grades up and had become lazy.
He left Lebanon and moved in with his aunt, Alison Reed, and her family last summer. Poynter said he began to get his life in order with the Reed’s help.
“I fell apart (in Lebanon). It was just laziness,” Poynter said. “I think I’m a better person now. Alison and (her husband) Kevin took me in like a son and have kept me in line. They’ve helped me get my work done and get my grades up, and I’m more responsible.”
His life in order, Poynter excelled in multiple sports at Houston. He earned all-state honors as a kick returner for the football team, was first-team all-district as the basketball team’s leading scorer and rebounder and had an all-state season on the baseball diamond.
Poynter was named to the all-state team at the DH/utility position. He led Houston in batting average (.471), on-base percentage (.524), hits (32), home runs (3) and RBIs (25).
He was just as dominating on the mound as the staff ace. The lanky right-hander went 6-1 with a 1.04 ERA and had 58 strikeouts while walking 15 batters in 47 innings.
Poynter’s best performance was in the Tiger’s biggest game. Facing Rogersville in the district semifinals, Poynter threw a complete game shutout as the Tigers advanced 1-0.
Poynter said he thrives in those moments.
“He’s a fierce competitor,” Hall said. “If he misses one in batting practice, he’ll moan and groan a little bit because he’s that kind of competitor. He’s kind of a perfectionist.”
The scary thing for opponents? Hall believes Poynter can be even better.
While playing this summer in Omaha, Neb., Hall said scouts were enamored with his body and potential for improvement. He received inquiries from several “nice” junior colleges and at least one Division I program from an elite conference.
“He’s got the body type to throw harder and big schools like bigger shortstops with the ability to throw it across the diamond,” Hall said. “Scouts weren’t looking at what he’s doing right now. It’s mostly his size and the potential he has. They see it as not fully reached yet.”
He’s already an outstanding player.
Poynter started at shortstop and batted fourth for the Tigers. He was easily the team’s most consistent hitter and midway through the season, his batting average was around .600.
Hall said he rarely gives the green light to hitters with 3-0 counts. But as Houston’s offense struggled, he routinely gave it to Poynter. And he would deliver.
“A lot of kids will just miss a fastball and foul it back. He connected on a lot of those,” Hall said. “He’s one of the better players I’ve had hitting 2-0 and 3-0.”
On the mound, Poynter succeeded with precision and changing arm angles. He had strong command spotting his fastball while mixing in a curveball, slider, change-up or cutter. When he was ahead in the count, Poynter would often drop down nearly sidearm with his slider.
Hall, who also coached Poynter in basketball this season, said he wasn’t surprised at his success.
“He’s one of those natural athletes that just does about everything well,” Hall said.