LITTLE BOSTON — North Kitsap’s Jayla Moon is on the mound, staring down another batter.
She takes in a few deep breaths, then lets a pitch fly.
During practices and before taking the mound, you might catch her doing a little dance. “You never go up to the mound nervous,” she said.
“She’s just a great kid that works really hard,” her coach, Jordan Armistead, said. “The plays she has on the mound are something you just don’t typically see in a kid that young.”
Her hard work paid off on June 24 with a rare accomplishment in baseball or softball: A no-hitter. But here’s the kicker: Jayla’s perfect game occurred during an All Star tournament, featuring the best youth softball players in the Little League district. And it’s only Jayla’s second year on the mound.
Oh, and lest we forget: Jayla’s 10 years old.
“Twelve batters got up to bat, and 12 batters were struck out,” her mother, Mandi Moon, said. “Not many pitchers, in general, can say they’ve thrown a perfect game. It’s close to unheard of.”
Jayla also contributed at the plate in that game against Key Peninsula. Jayla hit a single, two doubles, and two triples. North Kitsap won the game in four innings, 32-0. (That is not a typo.)
North Kitsap followed that win up with a 26-1 defeat of Sequim on June 25 and a 14-2 win over Bainbridge Island on June 27. North Kitsap played Gig Harbor for the championship at 6 p.m. June 29 at Snider Park. Results were not available at press time.
“Her team is amazing,” Mandi Moon said. “They’ve been really successful this year and it’s super exciting.”
Of her daughter, Moon said, “What I love is she doesn’t realize pitching a perfect game is a huge deal. She’s a very amazing girl.”
Jayla has played softball for six years, and plays almost year-round with regular and select teams. Softball sometimes overlaps with her winter basketball schedule. She successfully juggles as many as four nightly softball practices with homework, family and friends.
Jayla started pitching last year. “I saw them pitching and I wanted to try it,” she said. “When I did, I just felt it.”
The second-year pitcher’s speed and accuracy have dramatically improved over her first season on the mound.
“She’s really competitive,” her mother said. “Every pitch almost, you’ll see her using focus techniques. She steps off the mound and takes a deep breath.”
Jayla is working on pushing harder off the mound to create more speed with her pitch. “It’s not all the arm,” she said of pitching. “It’s mostly your legs pushing off the mound.”
She wants to play for the University of Washington one day, and said the hard work is worth it.
“It’s about getting up every morning and doing good in our games,” she said. “It all pays off.”
Looking ahead to the championship game against Gig Harbor, Jayla was confident.
“My coach gave me an option to start or close the game,” she said. “I chose to close. I like to close the game so I know how the hitters will be.”
However, Jayla knows the game is about the team. “It’s about the teamwork. [And] I think our team’s pretty strong.”
Armistead said of the team, “In the time we’ve had, we’ve really come together. They’ve worked hard, battled the heat and responded quickly. It’s been really fun to be a part of.”
Wears ‘28’ for her late aunt
Jayla’s draws inspiration from Florida Gators player Delaney Gourley, but she plays for her late aunt, Sarah Jones, who passed away in October at the age of 28.
Jayla wears the number 28 on her jerseys and tank tops as a tribute to her aunt, who in high school played for the North Kitsap select team.
“My sister watched her games and helped with her pitching,” Moon said. “She was really close to her. Taking that passion with her to the field has definitely helped her.”
Jayla added, “I’ll be number 28 for the rest of my sports [career], because it’s special.”
— Sophie Bonomi is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.