Billy Moon has memories as a freshman varsity baseball player at University. He remembers his first base hit that came against Shadle Park. He remembers his first pitching outing, a save against Gonzaga Prep.
The Titans were nursing a narrow lead and the little left-hander came in to face two dangerous hitters, David Kries and Bryan Karwacki, with one out.
“I still remember,” he said. “I got Kries to fly out for the second out and Karwacki to ground out for the third out.”
He remembers more relief than nerves.
“It would have been a whole lot easier if it wasn’t a close game,” Moon said.
Welcome to the Greater Spokane League, kid.
Moon is entering his fourth varsity season, with the GSL set to begin today with the Titans at G-Prep and among the league favorites. He’s clearly made his mark.
He holds nearly every school pitching record and should obliterate them this season, Titans coach Scott Sutherland said. Moon is a two-time All-GSL player, first as an outfielder his sophomore year and hurler last year when he led the league with a 5-0 record and 0.23 earned run average with 50 strikeouts in 30 innings.
“There were games last year where he had 11 strikeouts and one walk,” Sutherland said. “That was a common line for him. Do that and you’ll be successful.”
The Gonzaga University-bound baseball player also batted .533 for good measure and was among the leaders in all offensive categories except home runs and stolen bases.
Yet it is more than baseball that sets him apart, Sutherland said.
“For us, he’s been a great role model more than anything,” he said. “(Billy) is someone for the younger players to look up to just the way he carries himself in the classroom and by being a good citizen.”
That is how Moon would just as soon be remembered.
“Certainly there’s his commitment to playing not only high school baseball but select ball, going to area code tryouts, Baseball Northwest and all the other things,” Sutherland said. “But you know, he’s just set the bar high for us the last three or four years.”
Moon’s introduction to the sport came when his grandmother gave him a sleeping bag filled with baseball paraphernalia as a toddler.
“It was the first present I opened and my family got really upset with me when I didn’t open up any more presents,” Moon said. “I guess that’s where it started.”
He began organized play after moving from California to Spokane Valley at age 5. Not too many years later, he was traveling the country with select teams competing in national tournaments.
Moon developed a curveball at age 14 almost by accident when one of his coaches, Keith Ward, asked him if he knew how to throw one.
“We went to Oklahoma for an international world series and were playing Puerto Rico,” Moon said. “I was warming up and he goes, ‘You don’t throw a curveball? Do you know how to grip one?’ ”
Ward showed him a grip and it worked. Once at U-Hi it became a devastating out pitch. He’s since added a slider, which Moon calls his best pitch, and this year will unveil an improved changeup.
He’s been ace of U-Hi’s staff for two regional-qualifying seasons and is a reason the Titans will likely contend again this year.
Sutherland said Moon made varsity as a freshman to provide pitching depth. He had a win and that save.
It was the start of a career in which he’s gone 18-2 with 177 strikeouts and 44 walks.
But what caught Gonzaga’s eye was his outfield play, the position he originally was recruited to play. Although not particularly fast, Sutherland said Moon gets a remarkable jump on the ball. The Bulldogs offered a scholarship and he accepted just before his junior year.
A major program entered the picture this year, but he stuck by his oral commitment and signed with the Bulldogs.
“It was a week before the signing period,” Moon said. “I talked at length to my parents and a mentor of mine and just from talking knew that Gonzaga was the place for me.”
Moon is a spray hitter who has improved his ability to pull the ball.
“I’d rather have the problem of hitting the ball the other way too much,” Moon said. “But now I can turn on it more and have the luxury of getting closer to the plate and getting more walks.”
He led the team in hitting with .419 and .500 overall batting averages the past two seasons. Last year he set a single-season school record for hits in GSL play with 35 and overall went 40 for 80.
So what position would he prefer when he tests the next level?
“As long as I’m on the field,” said Moon, who today stands a chiseled 5-foot-11, 180 pounds. “If I had the opportunity to choose, I’d probably lean more toward pitching.”