May 17, 2021

Tray Owens named All-Area Player of the Year by Times-Georgian

Courtesy of Mason Wittner and the Times-Georgian

(Carrollton, GA) — Tray Owens’ brilliance on mound, at plate led to season of dominance

Tray Owens’ face immediately lights up when he’s asked about all he accomplished during his junior year at Heard County High School.

And for good reason.

Last fall, he earned first-team all-state honors as a defensive lineman while helping lead the Braves to the Class AA state championship. His good fortunes carried over into the spring semester as he returned to the diamond to produce a spectacular season that aided the Braves to a postseason appearance.

Owens was the ace of Heard County’s pitching staff, the top bat in the lineup and — when he wasn’t on the mound — a lockdown defender at both corner infield positions. He added immeasurable value to the Braves with both his skills on the field and leadership capabilities off it, and was consequently named the 2019 Times-Georgian All-Area Player of the Year.

Rising Senior Brave Tray Owens (Photo: Heard County Baseball)

“It means a lot,” Owens said of receiving the recognition. “This is just everything I’ve been waiting for and wanted. I’ve been working on the baseball field and I just keep grinding. I think my junior season was a pretty good year.”

Owens vexed opposing pitchers at the plate all spring long.

He posted a .423 batting average through 31 games, collecting 11 doubles and seven home runs while piling up 34 RBIs and stealing five bags.

When the roles were switched and his turn to take the mound arrived, he continued to have the upper hand.

The right-hander made 18 appearances, striking out 54 batters in 60 innings with a 2.10 ERA.

Owens’ ridiculous numbers on both sides of the ball made him a coveted asset for Trent Bianco. The Heard County head coach had worked with an abundance of talent through his first five seasons at the helm, but nothing quite like what he watched unfold in his sixth season this spring.

“I’ve been blessed with a lot of good players who have put together some great seasons. But, considering what Tray meant to our team and what he did this year, it’s one of the best seasons since I’ve been here, and probably in our school’s history,” Bianco proudly proclaimed. “He had such an impact on the game in terms of offensively, defensively and on the mound. He was absolutely huge for us.”

Owens thrives when the lights are the brightest.

He feeds off competition and expresses the desire to take the ball or pick up the bat when key moments arrive for the Braves. It comes as no surprise that some of the best performances he had this season came against Region 5-AA adversaries.

He batted. 511 with 24 hits, 22 RBI and four home runs through 15 games against region opponents. He was also lights out on the bump, posting a.1.40 ERA with 25 strikeouts through 30 innings pitched.

Fittingly, the gem of Owens’ breakout season came in a region game — his no-hitter against rival Callaway High School.

The righty was scheduled to start against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, April 9, and went into his appearance with an inkling that he was going to be successful.

“It’s all about how you feel that day,” Owens explained. “During school I listen to music to just get myself ready, and depending on how I throw my warm up session, that’s going to tell me a lot on about how good my game is going to be. Before Callaway that day, I felt great. I knew it was going to be a great day.”

Owens was brilliant. He struck out five while pitching six hitless frames to complete the feat against the eventual region runners-up. The historical outing was just one of a multitude of times the junior stepped up in crucial moments — a trait that earned the praise of his coach.

“That’s the thing about Tray. Callaway is our big rival, and to get someone that steps up in a big spot and in a big moment like that just shows you what kind of kid and what kind of player Tray is,” Bianco said.

Owens considers himself to be reserved in the clubhouse.

He ofttimes opts to lead by example rather than his voice, an option that is made easier when his numbers on the field stand out the way they did this season. But that take away from his ability to guide younger players around him and help show them the ropes, which is a responsibility he thoroughly enjoys.

“Most of the time people look up to Tray because of what he does on the field. He’s a guy that wants the ball in a big spot, and that just kind of demands attention when it comes to leadership,” Bianco said. “Everybody knows the work he puts in outside the field — whether it be in the weight room or in our practices — so he’s kind of a natural leader in terms of those aspects.”

Owens has returned to the gridiron to begin prepping for his final season of high school football. While he still has plenty of time before he takes the diamond for his senior campaign next spring, he delved into his goals for the club in 2020.

“I’m hoping we can at least make it to the final four, or possibly win state,” Owens said as another bright smile spread across his face. “We’ve got some good kids coming up and some young one that played for us this spring.”

Meanwhile, Bianco will be looking for Owens to continue his progression as a leader throughout his senior season. He’s not worried about the numbers he’ll produce on the mound or at the plate, because he knows all his young star has to do in order to echo his success is continue to be himself.

“One thing you don’t have to question with Tray is his work ethic,” Bianco said. “There’s no real added pressure to what he does. As long as he just keeps doing what he has been doing in the past, he’ll have another great year.”

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