PDT Sports Writer
WHEELERSBURG — 34-0.
The number alone seems mythical when it comes to the record of any pitcher on any level, let alone high school. But for Wheelersburg senior pitcher Derek Moore, it’s the mark he presently owns. As he takes the mound for Thursday’s Division III State Semifinal with Youngstown Ursuline, he will not only look for his 35th-straight victory, but also keep his Pirates in the hunt for back-to-back state championships.
“It starts with, and in this program in general, I go out there every day and I know that I’ve got the best defense behind my back,” Moore said during Tuesday’s practice. “They’re going to make plays for me. I know that our offense is going to score runs.
“It’s all about trusting yourself and trusting your defense, really. You have to have all of the confidence in the world.”
Going with the kid
Moore, who was called up to travel with the team during his freshman year, was thrown into the number one slot in the rotation early by his coach, Michael Estep.
“It was an absolute no-brainer, there’s no doubt about it,” Estep said. “When we watched him in the preseason, after experiencing the Final Four and that final game as a freshman, I think he really anticipated his sophomore year and knew that he had a big opportunity to be a big part of it.
“His preparation prior to that season in the winter time and coming into the spring put him in position where he was going to challenge to be out there as our number one or number two. It was a matter of seeing how he was going to react in a varsity situation.”
Moore admitted it took a few starts in the conference before Estep walked up to him and told him he would be the team’s workhorse.
“From then on, I realized he had confidence in me to do what I needed to do,” Moore said. “From then on, I just go out there with the same focus. Every pitch, it’s like I go up there and I know the batter, he’s not going to be better than me.”
Not only did the confidence grow within the then-sophomore, but it also blossomed throughout the rest of the team as they were able to make their second-straight trip to Columbus. Moore took the ball to start the 2011 Division III State Semifinal against Cincinnati Madeira.
The game had two lead changes and one tie but the Mustangs were able to win the game with three in the top of the seventh off Austin Boyer. Moore could not make it out of the fifth and thus, the streak was spared.
Another instance in which the zero in the right hand column almost changed into a one came this year. In late April, Waverly came into town for a crucial SOC II contest. The two teams battled to a 1-1 score before darkness forced the completion of the game into the first week of May.
“We knew coming into the game that Waverly, they’re a good team,” Moore said. “They always come here and play good.”
The Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 14th and forced the Pirates to respond. With two outs, Sam Robinson hit his first home run of the season to send the game into a 15th inning.
Dylan Miller eventually brought in the game-winning run in the 17th to end the game with a 3-2 win and the school’s ninth-straight SOC II title. Moore was credited with the win after pitching all but one of the 17 innings.
When asked what games were the closest in his thoughts to ending the mark, Moore wouldn’t specify.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” Moore said. “I’m just worried about winning.
“If something happens, it happens. I just want to win another championship.”
He enters Thursday’s game with a 1.02 earned run average, a year after having a 0.00 mark.
Where’s the next stop?
While most of his classmates have decided where they will be heading to after high school, Moore has yet to make up his mind. At this time, he has offers from Ohio University, Ohio Dominican, Mount Vernon Nazarene and Shawnee State among others, Moore said he will not be focused on his future until this weekend has concluded at the earliest.
But with the 50-50 threat of scattered thunderstorms in Thursday’s forecast, the senior may be more worried about what type of game he and his teammates will play during a potential delay than which school he will attend. Last year, the team put on a show for the crowd at Huntington Park during the delay of the state semifinal against Fredericktown where Moore’s teammates were going big game hunting with Moore being the target.
“If we get another one, you’ll see it coming,” Moore said.
But with all kidding aside, Moore wants to enjoy the last few days with his teammates. Estep believes Moore has put in the work to prove himself.
“Every coach that I’ve talked to, I tell them when you come to watch him pitch or he comes to you and throws at your college or a showcase or whatever it is,” Estep said, “what you see on that day will be exactly what you’ll see all the time as far as his being able to handle himself and throwing strikes. I think they see he’s a competitor, that he’s able to throw multiple pitches for strikes and as far as the growth process, I still think he has a higher ceiling.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.