LOS ANGELES—On evening of Sept. 9, 1965, a Chicago Cubs lefthander by the name of Bob Hendley pitched the best game of his life against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hendley allowed only one hit and one unearned against the Dodgers that night, but lost the game when his opponent—another lefty by the name of Sandy Koufax—threw a perfect game.
A fate somewhat similar to Hendley’s befell a diminutive lefthander named Dylan Stuart of Riverside, Calif.’s Poly High on Tuesday. Pitching in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division I semi-final game at Blair Field in Long Beach, Stuart held Mission Viejo’s Capistrano Valley High to two hits and one run over seven innings while striking out six. Stuart was assisted by several brilliant defensive plays by teammates Jake Marisnick and Blair Moore, both top prospects in next week’s draft.
Stuart had the misfortune of running into a character named Tyler Matzek, who didn’t throw a perfect game but tossed a masterpiece nonetheless. In the first inning, Matzek’s fastball ranged from 94 to 96 mph, peaking once at 97. He added an 87 slider and 81 curve.
As a hitter, Matzek collected Capistrano Valley’s only two hits and drove in the Cougars run in the first. On the mound, Matzek is quietly intense, often taking long strolls behind the bump and onto the grass, contemplating his next move while thoroughly massaging the rosin bag.
Battling out of nasty jams in the third and seventh innings, Matzek pitched his club into Saturday’s Division I championship game at Angel Stadium with a 1-0 decision. He allowed only two hits over seven innings, walked three, and struck out 7. Poor baserunning hindered Riverside Poly in the final inning, but Matzek was still firing his fastball at 93 at that stage, with a 77 curve.
Matzek’s late season brilliance virtually assures that he will be one of the top 10 picks in next Tuesday’s draft. Seattle with the second pick is a distinct possibility; if not, Matzek almost certainly will be selected anywhere from third to sevneth overall.
As for Stuart, he can take some solace in the fact that Hendley beat Koufax in a rematch several days later at Wrigley Field. Stuart is only a junior and will have another crack at a title next year.
As one first-round lefthander (Matzek) left the stage Tuesday, a future first-round lefthander entered.
He would be Henry Owens, a 6-foot-5, 160-pound sophomore from Edison High In Huntington Beach, Calif. Owens led his squad to a 2-1 victory over Mater Dei High of Santa Ana, Calif., in the evening’s second semi final contest.
Tall, lanky and exceptionally projectable, Owens fires an 88-89 mph fastball with late explosive life, and a 65-66, roller coaster curve with two plane sweeping break and severe diagonal tilt. My own notes indicate that neither Matzek nor Skaggs threw as hard as Owens at a similar age and grade level.
Owens has two discernable traits: A high Mark Langston-type leg kick in the middle of his delivery, and a mop of shaggy blond hair which protrudes from underneath his cap.
In seven innings of work, Owens allowed one unearned run, struck out 10, walked two and allowed 5 hits.
A probable Area Code Games participant, Owens will display his talents to scouts this fall by playing on the Orange County New York Yankees scout team, which is ably organized and managed by Dave Keith, a local Yankee area scout.
Almost every scout and observer of any type would like to see Saturday’s championship game moved to Monday, so that Matzek and Owens could square off against each other.
While they may face each other in relief roles Saturday, a Matzek-Owens showdown will most likely occur several years down the road in a different setting—the major leagues.