Lander first baseman Jordan Owens, center, has a batting average of .316, which includes six home runs and 46 RBIs. (Matt Walsh | Index-Journal)
When the subject of Jordan Owens came up, Lander University baseball coach Kermit Smith immediately jumped to that moment.
In Owens' sophomore year, the Bearcats went into a late-season matchup with Flagler, needing a series win to reach the Peach Belt Conference tournament. That year, the first baseman faced the challenge of being a top hitter in a lineup that offered little protection, but he still managed to smash three home runs in one of the crucial games. The feat grew more impressive as he tied the school mark for home runs in a season with 11.
But through his nearly four seasons in Bearcat blue, Owens has borne witness to the rebirth and rise of a program.He's one of the few players who were around before Smith took over the team three years ago. He said he sometimes tells younger teammates about those early seasons, when the team languished around .500, and he represents a kind of institutional memory.
"I kind of tell my stories like back in the day, and (teammates) are like, wow," Owens said. "It was a totally different program from when coach Smith was there. It was more of a relaxed type of environment and, I mean, I guess it showed in our record. We didn't really do that well."
Owens was drawn from Byrnes High School because he liked the Lander campus and by the promise of a brand new ballpark his sophomore season. It's taken until this senior season for him to finally play on the new field, Stephen B. Dolny Stadium.
Although he came in to play for Chris Moore, he came under Smith's tutelage a season later. He didn't choose it, but he adapted well. Owens said something clicked the first time he sat down and talked baseball with his new coach.
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