Steve Lambright, the veteran Huntington Beach Edison coach, decided to bring up the names of the two best baseball players in Southern California the last two years, Tyler Matzek and Cory Hahn, in an effort to motivate his standout pitcher, Henry Owens.
"I challenged him to be Cory Hahn-Tyler Matzek-like on the mound," Lambright said.
Owens responded with one of the best pitching performances of his already memorable prep career, throwing a no-hitter Friday to help top-seeded Edison defeat Corona Santiago, 11-0, in a Southern Section Division 1 playoff opener.
The 6-foot-7 Owens (12-0) struck out 12, walked one and never really came close to giving up a hit. Santiago players hit the ball hard twice — a line-drive out to third baseman Tyler Jones in the third and a fly-ball out to left fielder Sean Whiteman in the fourth. It was the first no-hitter for Owens since his sophomore season. His curveball and slider were outstanding, and combined with a 93 mph fastball and good control, Owens was able to dominate.
He struck out the side in the first inning, then struck out the side in the fifth and sixth innings on his way to seven consecutive strikeouts. He hit Steven Pallares with a one-out pitch in the seventh, then got his no-hitter on a game-ending double play when the umpires ruled Pallares had interfered with the throw to first while sliding.
"This is our last run for the seniors, and personally I just want to get that ring," Owens said.
Two years ago, as a sophomore, Owens watched Matzek pitch and hit Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley to the Division 1 title. Matzek threw 181/3 scoreless innings in the playoffs and beat the Chargers, 1-0, at Angel Stadium in the championship game by hitting a home run. Last season, Hahn pitched and hit Santa Ana Mater Dei to the Division 1 title, combining on a perfect game in the final.
Owens doesn't get to hit, but his pitching makes him a true ace, and Lambright has to decide how and when he wants to deploy Owens' powerful left arm.
Helping Owens on Friday was a strong all-around performance by the Chargers (24-3). Jon Torres had four consecutive hits, including a home run. Sophomore Jake Lesinski contributed four hits and six runs batted in, including a three-run home run.
"I don't think we could have played a better baseball game," Lambright said.
Edison will face Orange Lutheran in a second-round game Tuesday, and Owens could get the start.