Danner keeps growing as a baseball player
Sitting in the Huntington Beach dugout holding a paper cup in one hand and a bag of sunflower seeds in the other and wearing stylish sunglasses, 16-year-old pitcher Hagen Danner looks extremely comfortable in a baseball setting.
With one week left in the high school season, Danner is preparing for another memorable moment in a career that already has had plenty.
He’ll be the starting pitcher for Huntington Beach on Tuesday against Norco in a Southern Section Division 1 semifinal playoff game at 4 p.m. at Blair Field in Long Beach. The winner advances to the championship game against Hart or Saugus on Saturday at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino.
Huntington Beach fans have predicted big things for Danner since he helped Ocean View win the Little League World Series in 2011 when he was 12. He hit a home run in the team’s 2-1 championship win over Japan.
Then came the hometown parade, an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” photo sessions at the beach and media interview after media interview.
“There was a lot of media there, and at 12 years old, it’s nerve-racking,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from it, learned to battle the mental side and not worry about what’s going on around me.”
Danner, a 6-foot-1 righthander committed to UCLA and possessing a fastball that reaches 90 mph, was brought along slowly last season as a freshman. He pitched in relief. This season, he became a starter and has a 1.03 earned-run average in 61 innings with 65 strikeouts. He threw a shutout last week in a secondround playoff game against Long Beach Wilson.
“When my curveball is working, I feel I can beat anyone,” he said.
He’s hardly a finished product, still maturing, still learning how to deal with success and failure as a pitcher.
“Sometimes if things are going bad, I have to be able to keep myself up,” he said.
It’s all happening under intense scrutiny, because once you’re identified as a future star, the expectations don’t go away.
“I think he has a lot of room for growth,” Coach Benji Medure said.
Whatever happens in the future, Danner is certain to cherish the memories from Williamsport, Pa.
“It was lots of fun,” he said. “I like to be able to remember that for the rest of my life.”
Fans who show up for the state track and field championships every year at Buchanan High in Clovis don’t need any encouragement to get excited. They love the sport.
So who knows how intense the fan frenzy might reach Friday and Saturday when they get to see junior Michael Norman from Vista Murrieta.
Norman ran the 200 meters in 20.46 seconds at Friday’s Southern Section Masters Meet, the secondfastest time in state history. He also ran 46.70 in the 400. He’s a superstar in the making.
Then there’s sophomore Lauren Rain Williams of Westlake Village Oaks Christian. She won the 100 and 200 and ran on two winning relay teams at the Masters Meet.
It’s going to be a hot, memorable weekend in Clovis.
HAGEN DANNER (9) will be Huntington Beach’s starting pitcher in a playoff game Tuesday. “When my curveball is working, I feel I can beat anyone,” he says.