Even though she won’t admit it, Jessica Moore is without question the ace of the Oregon Ducks softball pitching staff.
However, when talking with Moore, she shows no hesitation to give credit and praise to her teammates first and foremost. Behind the pleasant exterior though is a fire-breathing competitor with an arm of lightning whenever she enters the circle, and on this team she’s in the circle a lot.
“We just have a great team and we all get along really well and it’s a pleasure to play with them,” said Moore.
After the 2012 season that Moore had, I’m certain that the pleasure is all theirs. Nationally at season’s end, Moore stood 26th in strikeouts (256) and sixth in wins (33), with the first-and second-best marks in school history respectively.
With Jessica Moore playing for the Ducks, there may be no more lonely of a position on a team than being an Oregon pitcher not named Jessica Moore, destined to ride the pine all year while she racks up the strikeouts, innings pitched, and most importantly W’s.
After her first three seasons, Oregon’s greatest pitcher already owns the school career record for wins (73) and strikeouts (718), and its top-three season strikeout totals (256, 2012; 238, ’10; 224, ’11). Jessica Moore can be described, in the most positive way, as a workhorse. She pitched 116 of the team’s 127 innings in the 2010-12 postseasons, and started all 18 games.
This includes one game back on May 8, 2010 against Arizona where she pitched all 11 innings. There is no precedent that could possibly be found in the modern era of baseball for comparison to the type of marathon Jessica Moore puts her arm through every season, no pitcher racks up the kind of wear and tear she does consistently game after game.
Jessica Moore’s best game of the 2012 season was back on March 13th against the then-ranked #1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Moore and the Ducks would go on to lose that game 5-1, but for Jessica Moore, it was a pretty special day.
Moore started the game, and in typical fashion finished it, and though she took the loss, she racked up a career high 14 strikeouts, giving the top-ranked team in the nation all they could handle.
“There’s not much I remember about that game. I remember that I just wanted to go one batter at a time and just get outs. I don’t feel that it was just a personal best performance, I felt like it was our best team performance even though we lost” reflected Moore.
Oregon made its first College World Series in 2012 for only the second time in school history, defeating Tennessee but losing to Pac-12 rivals ASU and Cal to end their dramatic run. Still, it was a year to be proud of, one that brought a lot of attention from the media and Oregon fan-base for the team’s gritty play all year in overcoming adversity, and at the heart of it all pitcher Jessica Moore stood strong.
The Ducks reached as high as 11th in the rankings, while playing an astounding 31 ranked opponents, among the most difficult schedules in the entire country. Despite being short-handed in the playoffs following suspect suspensions for rough play from key starters, the Ducks fought valiantly, bringing attention and fan support to Oregon women’s softball at levels rarely if ever witnessed previously, the team finishing an impressive 45-18.
Moore and the Ducks now set their sights on the 2013 season. Moore will go into the 2013 campaign on pace for other Duck career pitching categories; including shutouts (fifth, 15), games (fourth, 134), complete games (sixth, 64) and innings (sixth, 702.1).
“Our coaches have taught me to go out there with confidence and to be the best pitcher I can be. They give me the confidence that I can beat anyone” said Moore.
The one thing that she attributes to her growing success in the sport of softball is her maturing process. When she first got to Eugene by way of California, she felt like she didn’t really have to take that ‘next step’ because she had already made it to a great program, the tough part was over.
However, she said that it was something head coach Mike White and the other coaches spotted immediately and have mentored her into believing, that good is not good enough at the collegiate level. They have helped to teach her that athletes must always ‘raise the bar’ and embrace the team-first mentality in order to be great.
This is now all she cares about, how the team can grow and become better as a unit. Regardless of the gaudy stats Moore tallies with each passing season, her mindset is on the only stat that matters, wins.
“When I first got here (Eugene) I was really raw. The biggest thing the coaching staff has taught me in my three years here is maturity. Not only to mature on the mound, but with and around my teammates.”
Once a promising athlete with raw but impressive physical abilities, Jessica Moore has matured tremendously in her three years at Oregon, turning potential into production. In fact, she has matured so much that she is now passing down her knowledge and skills to a young group of local softball players this summer.
Moore is a part of the coaching staff for the 14U softball team the Northwest Bullets, they won the 14A ASA state championship in Albany, Ore. July 13-17. She helped coach the team to an undefeated weekend, the team outscoring their opponents an impressive 47-8.
Moore primarily works with the pitchers, and calls pitches during games. She will also occasionally work with hitters, specifically how to approach at-bats. For Moore, it is all about making everyone around her better, be it her teammates or girls she coaches.
“This is a great group of girls. They are always ready to rise to the challenge, and for only being around the age of 14, their mentality for the game is great.”
Moore’s coaching experience reflects in the way she plays the game, approaching an outing with the mindset of a coach more so than a player, a mental acumen developed through her coaching experience being able to see the game from both sides.
She feels like her veteran knowledge at the collegiate level can benefit younger girls and their maturity process as they get older, which is something Moore knows all about.
“I just love the game and have loved it since I was 11 years old. I always look at the game from a coach’s perspective and want to learn so that I can help my teammates,” said Moore.
Her teaching ability has proven to be a success, helping the Bullets win a state championship. The Bullets will now move on and play in the PGF national championships in Huntington Beach, Calif. Moore really enjoys coaching this team because she says that they are not afraid to try new approaches and ideas.
The one aspect that makes Moore proud to coach at this level is that the athletes stay hungry and more importantly, they want to improve and get better.
“This team is full of hard workers. They are always ready to try new things and I want to teach them and set a good example for their future if they decide to keep playing” said Moore. She has a fiery, intimidating persona in the circle, and that desire to compete comes across in what she considers to be her biggest challenge in coaching younger kids. “Patience. I’ve had to observe my own game and how I handle things. Then I can try and communicate it with the kids. Then I get to talk with my teammates about it, it’s fun,” Moore said.
Unfortunately, Moore will not be able to travel to Southern California with her team, having to stay behind in Eugene to finish up some summer classes. Though not physically traveling to the games, she will be there in spirit urging on her players, and Moore is confident that her team can compete with the best in America.
“I am totally confident they can rise to the challenge and give it their best. I just want them to have fun and play hard, and know that I am so proud of them.”
From coaching the Bullets and her Duck teammates, Moore has decided that she will continue her coaching journey once she finishes college. “I really want to coach at the Division I level. This experience with the Bullets has taught me that I love passing down my knowledge of the game and knowing I can help make players better.”
It’s hard to take criticism. When Jessica Moore first arrived at Oregon she didn’t know that her maturity needed to grow. Through teaching and mentoring from the Oregon coaching staff, she’s now the most mature one of the group. The girl that came to Eugene not knowing if she wanted or even needed to grow is now mentoring young softball players to grow into great athletes and more importantly, great people.
That’s what makes an ace, an ace.