Taft, California —— Don’t blame Will Moore for rushing.
A sophomore right-handed pitcher for Taft College, Moore grew up here in town and played his amateur baseball for Taft Union, a high school just steps from the Cougars’ college baseball field. So after crossing the parking lot to join Taft College for the first two years of his college career, and now finding himself staring the final month of his sophomore year, there’s no doubt Moore is ready to move on to the next big thing.
Rushing through life? Sure. That’s what a 20-year-old does.
But rushing on the mound? That’s not Will Moore—not any more, at least.
Here, watch this:
You see that hitch in his delivery? That slow, deliberate rise of his left leg as he comes to balance before delivering a pitch? That slowed-down reminder not to rush has made all the difference for Will Moore this year in setting himself apart as Taft College’s most reliable pitcher coming down the stretch in Central Valley Conference play.
“I made that adjustment in the middle of fall ball,” Moore says after a recent Cougars game. “I like to go, go, go, but as a pitcher, I can’t be too high, and I can’t be too low. I have to be committed to staying calm and focusing on my job. So going slow lets me pause all my adrenaline and just take a breath. The goal with that is to slow myself down and focus on where I want to spot up.”
Mechanical troubles aside, adrenaline had been working in Moore’s favor at times, too. Even though he’s not the biggest pitcher on Taft’s roster, he’s the team’s hardest thrower, with a good, live fastball that leaves hitters uncomfortable. But the fastball was ultimately worthless at times last year, because while Moore could throw it hard, he couldn’t command it. Rushing to the plate—that “go, go, go” adrenaline that lives just under the surface in Will Moore—was sabotaging his ability to get on top of the ball and release it on a downward plane to the plate.
To take those mechanical issues and make a wholesale adjustment is one thing; Moore credits Taft assistant Chris DeFreece with the help in finding a consistent release point there during the team’s fall session. But to make the mechanical adjustment, repeat it, perfect it, and then learn to trust your stuff again with a completely new process?
You can’t rush that—and it doesn’t matter how hard you throw.
“I didn’t really trust what I had back during fall ball [with the mechanical adjustment],” Moore admits. “But Coach DeFreece really got in my ear telling me that I’ve got the stuff, and I need to trust my stuff and not try to do anything extra. Now, once I get 0-1, or 0-2, then I’m in a pitcher’s count, so I can speed up and throw harder. Honestly, that’s probably the best part of switching speeds. Once it becomes 0-2, they see the harder fastball and they can’t time it, so it’s already in the glove when they swing.”
Moore has done his fair share of that this year. In 21.1 innings pitched entering Tuesday afternoon, he’s 3-2 with a 4.64 ERA and 19 strikeouts in nine games (four starts) for Taft College. Along the way he’s gone from major mechanical flaws, to go-to relief fireman pitching late in close games down the stretch for the Cougars, to starting rotation standout—all while his hometown college overachieves in a strong JuCo baseball conference. And all this follows a freshman year where he held a stingy 2.86 ERA in 16 appearances, 14 of which came out of the bullpen.
Of course, Moore is more than just a hard fastball. With a breaking ball and a changeup in his arsenal as well, he’s eyeing an even bigger role soon—either at Taft, or his during his four-year career afterwards.
“I prefer to be a starter,” he admits, which is fortunate considering he’s worked his way into the Taft rotation with a month left. “I really like stretching a long time, and it takes my body a long time to warm up. I like being able to have a routine, and I like to build it up a bit. First inning I can ease into it, and slowly jack it up a bit by the third inning. And then by the fifth or sixth, I’m throwing everything I’ve got.”
See that? A slow build in each of his starts for Taft College, just like working all fall to create a slow build to balance that allows him to sync up his go-go attitude and hard fastball.
Now, it’s no rush, no problem—and that’s just how it should be for Will Moore.