CARY, N.C. — Yucaipa is a relatively small inland California town about 75 miles east northeast of Huntington Beach.
When Cory Moore, a big left-handed pitcher with a slightly country accent moved from Yucaipa to the seaside city, his new teammates at Huntington Beach High School weren’t quite sure what to think. After all, most of them had played together since Little League, where a core group had won a Little League World Series title together.
The close-knit team was fresh off a CIF Southern Section championship and was ranked No. 4 in USA Today’s preseason Super 25 poll. They had a swagger and a personality all of their own.
“I’d say that our culture as a team, we have a strong personality and Cory was able to adjust to that right away,” said senior shortstop Chad Minato, who has committed to play at Harvard next year. “We consider ourselves to have our own language. Other people kind of are like, ‘what are you guys saying?’ But we understand each other. We’re able to talk to each other in ways that people on the outside don’t understand. It’s something special. Everybody is able to go along with it, to understand it. It’s something that we take pride in.
“Cory is a big personality guy,” Minkato said. “When he came over, he got along with us right away. He jumped in. He’s a part of us. He’s no difference because he’s a transfer this year. He’s a part of our family. We needed him to step up today for us and he did that.”
Moore stepped up in a big way, allowing just one run in six innings to lead Huntington Beach to a 3-1 win over Georgia powerhouse Allatoona in the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. Huntington Beach faces fellow Southern California team Chaminade (Canoga Park) in Saturday’s final.
Moore took a two-hit shutout into the sixth inning, before giving up a run and working out of a bases loaded, one-out jam and giving way to senior Kobie Anton in the seventh.
“I can’t say enough about Cory,” said Huntington Beach coach Benji Medure, who recalled that in his last outing, the 6-4, 230-pound junior walked six, including five in a row in just 1-plus innings against JSerra. “We couldn’t get him out fast enough. So for him to come back, throw strikes, battle a great hitting team like that… he kept the ball down all day long and changed speeds well.
“He ran out of gas at the end, but I’m proud of him because he really overcame something that was really hard for him. It was hard for him to accept that he couldn’t find the zone the last time he pitched.”
After his last appearance, Moore’s new team challenged his toughness. Tiring quickly in the sixth inning with a spot in the NHSI championship game on the line, the new kid dug deep and responded.
“He kept his poise,” Medure said. “He made really good pitches in that situation, so that shows his toughness. And we questioned his toughness after the last outing. For him to respond like he did was huge.”
“I didn’t really plan on getting in that situation,” Moore said with a chuckle. “It was a little sticky at first. I just stepped off the rubber, took a deep breath and was like, ‘Ok, it’s time to focus here.’ I just slowed everything down and went back to trusting in my defense and it worked out for us pretty good.”
Moore said that his game plan was to throw strikes and trust the Oilers defense to make the plays behind him.
“Today, I just focused on going out and having the most fun I can,” he said. “I focused on enjoying the moment and playing on this great field and playing in this great tournament with one of the best teams in the nation and playing against a great team.”
The kid who everyone at school calls “Big Country” and who has already committed to play at Santa Clara in another coastal town, is fitting in with his new teammates just fine.
“It’s a little different coming from Yucaipa and a smaller town than Huntington Beach,” he said. “But it’s definitely nice living in Huntington Beach and playing baseball for Huntington Beach High School.”