One’s a righty, the other’s a lefty.
One’s a senior, the other’s a sophomore.
One has short-cut hair that fits neatly under his Edison High baseball cap, and one’s free-flowing long brown hair can hardly be contained.
Yet, when it comes to pitching, both Kurt Heyer (the former) and Henry Owens (the latter) have plenty in common. Too much in common, in fact, for Sunset League opponents.
Heyer is 6-1 for the Chargers with a minuscule earned-run average of 0.63. Owens is 6-0, and his ERA of 0.68 is just as impressive.
Think Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, who both starred for the Arizona Diamondbacks at the start of this decade, and it makes sense. Heyer is headed to the University of Arizona, while the 6-foot-6 Owens idolized Johnson as a kid. He used to wear No. 51, and his nickname was the Big Unit.
But, if you’re a Los Angeles Dodgers fan like Edison Coach Steve Lambright, you might go farther back.
“[Sandy] Koufax and [Don] Drysdale,” Lambright said, referring to the two Hall-of-Fame pitchers who anchored the Dodgers in the early 1960s. “They have the lefty-righty thing.”
This week, the pair of aces is in the spotlight. Edison played at Marina Wednesday, with Owens pitching against Vikings senior Race Parmenter. The teams play again Friday at Edison, with Heyer against UC Irvine-bound Paul Strong. Those games hold more than a little importance in the Sunset League race, since both teams are tied for first at 8-1 in league coming into the week.
Edison beat Marina, 4-3, in the teams’ first league meeting on March 27. Since then, the Vikings had won 10 straight games headed into this week and are ranked No. 1 in the new CIF Southern Section Division I coaches’ poll.
The Chargers are No. 4 after being upset by rival Fountain Valley, 5-4, on Friday, their first league loss.
But last week wasn’t a total downer for Edison. On April 22, Owens threw the first no-hitter of his high school career in a 7-0 win over the Barons. He gave credit to his teammates, showing the tight unit the Chargers have become.
“In the seventh, I go [to a] 3-2 [count] on the first batter,” Owens said. “Line drive up the middle, and shortstop Kyle Jones leaves his feet and just makes the greatest pick. Next batter, we had the outfield playing shallow because I don’t want them to break it up with a bloop hit. The next kid hits a towering shot to center. Eric Snyder, our center-fielder, goes back.
“He ‘Willie Mays-ed’ the ball, over his shoulder makes the catch. Those were back to back the greatest plays I’ve ever seen, the plays of the year. I turned around to both of them and took off my hat, and everyone was laughing. It was great.”
Owens said he consistently hit in the upper 80s on the radar gun a few weeks back at a showcase. He could always throw hard, but this year he’s become a more complete pitcher, Lambright said.
It showed in his first start of the year, when he struck out 14 against El Modena.
“Henry’s got a bright future,” Lambright said. “He’s starting to learn to pitch. At times last year, he was just a thrower.”
Heyer, meanwhile, is in his third full year as a starting pitcher for the Chargers. He was the one who got the win in the first victory over Marina. He, too, has seen improvement in his game.
“Last year, I had to learn to not only rely on my fastball,” Heyer said. “Last year, I developed a slider, [but] last year’s problem was I didn’t put guys away when I had to. I got to 1-and-2 [count] and I’d give up a little blooper hit, and that really hurt us. Now I’m just being more aggressive on the mound, putting guys away and not wasting pitches, as my coach says.”
Lambright gives his pitchers three main instructions: Throw first-pitch strikes, get the leadoff man out and give the team a chance to win. And Heyer and Owens have rarely failed those commands this season, as Edison tries to win its second Sunset League title in three years.
They both said they like to compete and try to out-do each other, although that’s never an easy task.
“You need to have the same approach to every game you play,” said Heyer, not fazed after losing to Fountain Valley. “That game was just as important as every other game. I know that we can bounce back. We can learn a lot from that game, because we know we can lose. We’re not perfect. It just makes us more close as a team, and more focused this week. We’re getting after it this week.”
MATT SZABO may be reached at (714) 966-4614 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.