There was a knock at the Owens house in Huntington Beach. Henry Owens was in no mood to answer. He was a 16-year-old sophomore pitcher who had just recorded his first loss for Edison High. He thought it might have cost his team a Sunset League title.
At the door was his senior teammate, pitcher Kurt Heyer.
"Come and walk with me," Heyer said.
They walked around the neighborhood. Owens listened and learned.
"He talked about erasing the last game and coming back the next game and throwing like I can," Owens said.
In the next game, Owens shut out Los Alamitos, 4-0. Then he won a Division I playoff game against Valencia West Ranch, 13-1, and beat Santa Ana Mater Dei, 2-1, in the semifinals. By season's end, he was the second-best pitcher in Southern California behind first-round draft pick Tyler Matzek of Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley, having compiled a record of 10-1 with an 0.98 earned-run average.
It sets the stage for Owens' junior season, in which he no longer can be considered a young pup. He's 6 feet 7, wears size-17 shoes, throws left-handed and boasts a 92-mph fastball. He's set to make his 2010 debut March 5 at 7 p.m. at La Palma Park in Anaheim against Aliso Niguel.
There are plenty of professional baseball scouts who would be willing to draft Owens in June, except that he's not eligible until 2011. That gives his lucky coach, Steve Lambright, two more seasons to send him out once a week and dare an opponent to beat him.
"The bigger the event, the better he is," Lambright said. "He definitely thrives on the competition. He's got the whole package. He's very grounded. He's very humble."
If it's not intimidating enough to see a teenager with Owens' size standing on a mound, imagine what it must be like seeing him surf, his other passion.
"I was born with big feet and grew into them," he said.
It was his success in handling the pressure of big games last season that set him apart from most young players. Of course, it was Heyer's talk that got him through the toughest moment, losing, 13-5, to Newport Harbor.
"It really helped," he said.
Aiding Owens this season should be improved strength, experience and more knowledge of how to pitch. He has tinkered with his mechanics, cutting down slightly his high kick while understanding that he must avoid falling behind in the count, having walked 33 last season in 71 2/3 innings.
"I learned to pitch and not throw," he said. "I was too much of a thrower reaching back and throwing, and I learned how to place it where I want, so deeper in the game if I need more, I can reach back."
Another lesson was learned sitting in the dugout in the Division I championship game at Angel Stadium and watching Matzek. The Chargers lost to Capistrano Valley, 1-0, on a Matzek home run in the bottom of the sixth inning and after Matzek escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh.
"I learned from him not to get overly excited," Owens said. "He hit that home run against us and their team is going crazy and he's blank-faced, ready to come out the next inning and throws BBs."
What's clear is that Owens' presence gives Edison a No. 1 pitcher who will be tough to beat any time he takes the mound. The Chargers' hitting attack figures to be quite good, with UCLA-bound junior center fielder Eric Snyder and junior shortstop Christian Lopes, who transferred from Valencia and is considered a top pro prospect.
Lambright is the one who recognized Owens' potential and gave him the chance to prove himself.
"I saw a kid who had the mannerisms to handle the pressure of pitching," he said. "The biggest thing was command. If he could command his pitches, they'd be awfully tough to hit because if a kid in high school can throw 90 mph and left-handed and throw an off-speed pitch for strikes, that's why he had a great year."
Owens knows there's always room for improvement, and that's the scariest thought of all.