LAKEWOOD -- Shane Watson was a mess earlier in the year. He smiles about it now because he can. Lakewood baseball coach Spud O'Neil jokes about it because it's true.
There was nothing messy about Watson's complete game performance Friday afternoon, as the ace guided Lakewood to an upset of top-seeded Huntington Beach Edison, 3-1, in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Watson gave up just four hits, out-dueling top major league pitching prospect Henry Owens.
Not bad for a guy who is a few months removed from undergoing surgery to repair a broken shin.
"I wasn't raising my lower half," recalled Watson, who had a metal rod and three screws placed in his leg. "I wasn't getting a lot of strikes. I just kept practicing hard and working hard."
Watson shut down one of the state's top lineups, facing the minimum through three and giving up one hit through five. He improved to 10-2 on the season.
"He's not going to strike out as many guys as Owens," O'Neil said, "but he's got a very good defense behind him. He's been getting better every game. He's really become a leader on this team and you can see by today that he's a winner also."
Lakewood (29-4-1) scored twice in the third on back-to-back RBI doubles from J.P. Yakel and Jonathan Pasillas and, after Edison (25-4) cut the deficit in half, added an insurance run in the sixth on a Jimmy Gosano bunt single.
It was a methodical kind of play -- "small ball," per say -- that eventually doomed Edison, the team everyone expected to hoist the trophy at Dodger Stadium. This group of Chargers, led by Owens and projected draft picks Christian Lopes and Eric Snyder, were three-time league champions and tied the school record for most wins in a season.
"We lost to a team that won 28 ballgames," Edison coach Steve Lambright said. "I'm not bitter. Lakewood did a great job. They outplayed us. I wish them all the luck in the semifinals. ... I'm proud of my team. They have nothing to hang their heads about."
Lakewood didn't seem fazed by Owens or the large Edison contingent that made the trip. The highly touted left-hander struck out 11 in six innings, but threw 114 pitches. He had tossed a no-hitter last Friday in a first-round win against Corona Santiago.
"I think we can hit anybody," O'Neil said.
There was a retro feel to the place. Both teams went with the high stirrups look, oldies blared through the speakers in between innings and fans set up chairs along Lomina Avenue and Harvey Way. A number of fans even sat on top of a fire truck in hopes of getting a view from beyond the left field fence. It was exactly the atmosphere O'Neil had in mind when he turned down an opportunity to hold the game at Long Beach State's Blair Field, a much larger venue that would have easily accommodated both sides.
"Long Beach State told us we couldn't have a double-header [with Simi Valley and Long Beach Wilson], so one of us would have had to play on Saturday," O'Neil said. "We didn't want to do that. I asked the kids and they 100 percent wanted to play at home and I went with them. ... When we played them at Edison two years ago we had a pretty good pitcher, but he was nervous. We didn't have a chance."
With Watson on the mound, that wasn't the case Friday.
"We've all said that if we beat (Edison), we're going to win it all," Watson said. "We've got a good feeling about this year. This is our year."