Houston baseball coach Brent Hall has seen it happen numerous times. One of his players has an all-state junior year, followed by a disappointing senior season.
Not Kyle Poynter. He was even better in his last hurrah with the Tigers.
Poynter put the finishing touches on a memorable career with another standout performance. He led Houston in nearly every statistical category as a batter and pitcher to earn all-state recognition for the second straight year.
Poynter was named a first team utility/DH selection by the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. He was a second team pick at the same position by the state’s coaches.
For Poynter, there was no senior setback.
“A lot of times for kids, expectations get higher and they get a little pressure on them their senior season,” Hall said. “That didn’t happen with Kyle. He had a good group around him to provide some support, and he was even better than his junior year.”
Poynter’s numbers were impressive. He led the team with a .547 batting average, 35 hits, six doubles, three triples, five home runs and 25 RBIs. He also tied for the team lead with nine stolen bases.
On the mound, Poynter went 9-3 with a 1.51 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings.
But Poynter’s most impressive statistic was a zero — as in the number of times he struck out in 64 at-bats.
“It’s amazing that he didn’t strike out,” Hall said. “You can get fooled on a pitch. You think it’s a ball and the umpire calls it a strike. Or the pitcher throws it in a spot that freezes you. Or you just happen to miss a pitch.”
Hall said he has never had a player accomplish that feat. He also said he has never seen it happen on any team. As the season progressed, the accomplishment became like a no-hitter. Everyone was aware of it, but no one discussed it.
“I knew about it,” Poynter said. “I just tried my hardest not to strike out.”
Poynter may not have struck out, but he was hardly a simple contact hitter. He had home run power to all fields and easily led the Tigers with 14 extra-base hits.
“Kyle took good, solid hacks with his first two swings because he wasn’t scared to hit with two strikes,” Hall said. “He’d shorten up his swing and put the ball in play. He was so strong and long that if he got his arms extended, he drove the ball.”
As a pitcher, Poynter was an overpowering force. He blew away batters with his fastball — it topped out at 88 mph during a game on Hammons Field — and kept them off-balance with an overhand curveball and sidearm slider.
Those three pitches added up to the most strikeouts in Hall’s tenure. Poynter threw seven complete games, three shutouts and batters hit .169 against him.
“He was overpowering for our area,” Hall said.
Poynter completed his career with all-state selections in football, basketball and baseball. He also received player-of-the-year conference honors in basketball and baseball. But he said he’s most proud of leading the 2010 baseball team to the tournament and regular-season SCA championships.
As an individual player, Hall said Poynter would be remembered as one of Houston High School’s best. Ever.
“He’s definitely in the top five. He’s among the best — not just baseball players, but athletes in general,” Hall said.