Don’t let Lexi Knauss’ size fool you.
The Meridian High School softball player may be 5-foot-2 and 115 pounds soaking wet, but there’s a lot of power in that small frame of hers.
The senior belted 49 hits, 41 RBIs (runners batted in to home base) and 11 home runs for a .551 batting average this season. Those numbers earned Knauss both the 5A Southern Idaho Conference and Gatorade Idaho Softball Player of the Year awards, proving big things do in fact come in small packages.
“It’s kind of funny because when I play teams that don’t really know me as a player, a lot of them think I’m just going to bunt or play small ball,” Knauss said. “So when I hit really well, the expressions on their faces are priceless. They’re immediately sorry for doubting me.”
It all started with one swing of the bat. When Knauss crushed a ball against Fruitland at the Idaho Sporting Goods Tournament as a freshman for her first career home run, a star was born.
The home run was the first of many. Twenty-seven more softballs found their way over the fence as the shortstop led the Meridian Warriors in home runs in each of the past four seasons.
“I think that was the first time I realized I had some power with my swing,” Knauss said. “I definitely surprised myself, and I definitely surprised all the fans and my teammates as well. Getting that first home run made me realize how capable I was.”
Knauss also led Meridian in extra base hits in every season she played and stole 48 bases, only being picked off three times. She finished her high school career as a four-time 5A SIC All-League selection with a .540 career batting average.
But perhaps the most impressive stat line was the fact that she never missed a start in her four-year tenure in the program. Knauss played in every single inning since being inserted into the starting line-up during the first game of her freshman season.
“She’s been a video game number kid as far as her stats go,” Meridian coach Tom Pinkley said. “If you looked around the league this season, nobody her size had that kind of power.
“What helped her was her bat speed. That comes with the proper mechanics and working your tail off. When she squared up a ball it was either a line drive or out of the park.”
Outside the numbers, Knauss was a great leader, even at a young age. As a sophomore, she anchored the Warriors to a third-place finish after a two-year state tournament drought. Following a junior season where Meridian fell in the state play-in game, Knauss returned the program to prominence this season. After losing three of four games at the beginning of the season by a margin of 33 to 12, Knauss helped the Warriors turn things around by calling a team meeting, and by switching up her hairdo.
With a yellow sunflower and what she calls a “bubble braid” in her hair, Meridian won its next six games and 14 of 17, finishing as the 5A District III runner-up in the process. The finish gave Knauss and company the one thing they just missed out on last season — a state tournament berth.
“She was very important to our softball team,” sophomore Sam DeSloover said. “She made sure everything was in line and brought everyone together and helped everyone have a good time, which we needed to make to it to state. We needed to have fun, and that’s what helped us win our district games.”
But at the state tournament, superstitions and all, the Warriors ran completely out of gas. They lost to Kuna and Lake City high schools by a combined score of 16-4 to not only end their season, but end the prolific high school career of Knauss.
“It was really disappointing going two and out, but we still had a pretty good season, and we accomplished one of our biggest goals, which was making it to state,” Knauss said. “It still said something about the kind of team we were, and I was honored to have been a part of it all.”
While her playing days at Meridian are over, Knauss will continue her career at the University of Montana in the fall. The Grizzlies won the Big Sky Championship and made their first ever appearance at the NCAA Tournament this season. She’ll switch over to second base and look to show that a player doesn’t have to be the biggest to be the best.
“I plan to keep hitting the long ball in college because I love seeing those reactions,” Knauss said with a laugh. “However, college softball will be a lot more challenging because you are facing good competition every single game. That just means that I need to continue to put in extra work and keep improving my skills every day.”