By John Goralski
Mercy batters were desperate to erase Southington’s one-run lead in the Class LL championship game, and Coach John Bores trudged to the mound when a two-out double put the tying run in scoring position.
Jordyn Moquin never blinked. The senior pitcher listened, nodded her head, and ended the threat. Over the next four innings, the only ball to escape Southington’s infield was a weak pop-up handled easily by the Lady Knight left fielder.
The Southington coach never had to say another word to his senior co-captain.
“The mental toughness and resolve that she’s shown from her freshman year to her senior year is just unbelievable,” said Bores. “When I looked into her eyes that night at the championship game, I could just tell that we weren’t going to be losing that game.”
It may look easy as Lady Knight pitchers mow down batters like a marksman at a country fair, but it isn’t an easy position to play. There’s no hiding. There’s no excuses. Nobody feels the pressure like a Lady Knight pitcher. It’s enough to crush anybody’s spirit.
Moquin’s no stranger to disappointment. As a junior, the Knights raced into the final game as the top seed before crumbling in defeat. Moquin was pulled from the lineup as Amity hitters dismantled the Southington defense. It wasn’t all her fault. Lady Knight defenders committed a season’s worth of errors in the bright lights of the championship game.
But it’s the pitcher that takes the heat. News of the loss swept across newspaper headlines, and Moquin, herself, knew that her starting position was never guaranteed. With a young pitcher rising up through the ranks, Moquin could have just walked away.
But that’s just not in her character.
“I don’t think it woke her up or anything because I don’t think she needed that, but I think she was embarrassed,” said Bores. “I knew that she worked really, really hard in the off-season. We’d talk on the phone, email, or text. I knew that she was working on her pitching and hitting. I knew that she was bound and determined to have a memorable senior year, and she did.”
It didn’t take long for Moquin to quiet any lingering critics. She fanned nine batters on opening day. She didn’t walk a single person. The 14-0 victory was her first of 15 shutouts as a senior. It was her first of six no-hitters and first of three perfect games.
Moquin was just getting started.
“I don’t think she had one bad game to her credit. She went 24-1, and we certainly can’t fault her for our one loss,” said Bores. “We made three or four errors in one inning to give Bristol Central four unearned runs. She’s not the kind of pitcher that’s going to strike out everybody and give you no-hitters every day. We still have to make the plays.”
On the other hand, Moquin wasn’t just the queen of the defense. Over her four-year career, she was just as deadly at the plate. As a sophomore, she only earned four wins on the mound, but she worked her way into the every day lineup with a .372 batting average. As a junior, she edged above .400 and finished third in RBIs (25) and doubles (6). As a senior, she ranked fourth in batting average (.434), second in RBI (37), and third in extra-base hits (13).
As a senior and a junior, Moquin allowed just 18 earned runs as a pitcher. As a hitter, she drove in 52 Southington runs.
“We batted her fifth as a senior because we had a lot of kids that could set the stage for RBIs, and she came in with some really key hits throughout the course of the year,” said Bores. “She had some surprising power. When she hit one over our center field fence, I hadn’t seen that since Sarah Plourde did it to us with Bristol Eastern (2008). I told her that, in college, she could be a designated hitter or a first baseman on the days that she doesn’t pitch. She’s that good.”
But it was her pitching that drew college scouts. As a sophomore, Moquin went 4-0 as a backup pitcher with a 0.56 ERA. The next year, her ERA dropped to 0.38 as she collected 106 strikeouts with just 17 walks in 145.2 innings. As a senior, Moquin’s ERA climbed to 0.47, but she set career bests in strikeouts (139), complete games (22), and shutouts (15), including a 1-0 victory over Mercy that clinched the first Lady Knight state title since 2004.
“It was her confidence and the ability to hit her spots,” said Bores. “She had unbelievable confidence that she could put the ball wherever she wanted it. She hit the outside corner, the inside corner, high, low. It didn’t matter.”
Most importantly, Moquin had become a solid, dependable leader for the Knights. Bores lists her among his best captains of all time. She was tough on herself, but always easy on others.
“Some pitchers can give a look or throw their arms in the air if a player makes a mistake or an error,” said Bores. “Jordyn was always positive. She’d say something like, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll get the next one.’ There was never any negativity from her demeanor, her body language, or her words. Everything was always so positive.”
Her commitment to her teammates is what set Moquin apart. Coach Rich Heitz called her the ‘ultimate team player.’ When Heitz was looking for somebody to guard the middle on his volleyball team, Moquin rose to the challenge. Even though she had her heart set on a defensive position, she stepped in to a mismatched position just to help out her team.
Despite her size disadvantage, the 5-foot-8 Moquin anchored the Knights in the middle for two seasons. As a junior, she collected 19 blocks and 23 kills. As a senior, she scored 13 blocks and 20 kills.
“She realized that it wasn’t a natural fit, but she would do whatever it took to help the team. She just wanted to be on the court,” said Heitz. “She’s athletic. She’s a strong server, and she’s a hustler. She’ll go for any ball. Even when she’s going up against a 6-foot-1 kid, she’ll give it her all to try to get a touch on the ball to slow it down so that her teammates can get a touch on it.”
Unlike most middle defenders Moquin was versatile enough to stay in the rotation, even in the back row. In both her junior and senior seasons, she finished among the top seven in serving, digs, and assists. Moquin could do it all.
“I never heard her complain about her role. She was always ready to play wherever she was needed whether it was the back row, serving, or playing that middle position. She’s a great player to have on a team,” said Heitz. “Maybe it was because of all of her pitching, but she could react so well. As a pitcher, she had to constantly defend herself when somebody was lining one back at her, so she could read and react so well to get a touch on the ball.”
Once again, Moquin’s team rose to the top of their sport. As a junior, she played an important role as Southington’s postseason rally finished just one victory from a state title. In a five-game series, Moquin held her own against Newtown’s larger lineup.
“One of her best games was in that state championship game,” said the coach. “We knew that we’d have to get more out of our middles, and she went in there and gave it her all. She had a nice game. She did whatever we could ask for with two or three kills and a couple of key touches on the ball.”
As a senior, Southington returned to the final four before losing to Darien in a hard-fought semifinal contest where all but one game was decided by two points. Darien went on to capture the state title in a 3-0 shutout, so Southington was the only team to steal a postseason game from the eventual state champions.
Moquin wasn’t a captain, but Heitz said that her leadership was instrumental with Southington’s young squad.
“I always like to see the maturity level of our seniors, and she brought a lot of it,” said Heitz. “In practice, she was always positive and always smiling. That’s one of the things that I’m going to miss the most about Jordyn. No matter how bad things were going, she was always easy going and supportive of her team and the captains. I think that she led by example, and I could see the respect that her teammates had for her.”
Still, it was in the softball circle that Moquin quieted any critics, and her senior season was the perfect ending for her stellar career. As pitcher, she set the tone for Southington’s play. As a hitter, she drove in more runs (37) than she gave up on the mound (10). As a leader, she helped keep the poise that was missing in her junior year.
“She’s earned her place in history because she got us to the state finals twice, and there aren’t a lot of girls that have done that,” said Bores. “She wasn’t the fastest pitcher that I’ve ever had. She wasn’t our most athletic pitcher, but I’ll tell you that we haven’t had a tougher pitcher mentally. She went out there, took the ball, and there were never any excuses. She worked her tail off every day. She didn’t cheat herself, her coaches, or her teammates. She gave every ounce of her ability every single day—in practice and in games.”
It was enough to earn her the respect of her teammates. It was enough to lead the Knights to their 15th state title in softball. For her outstanding athletic achievements, versatility, and leadership, Jordyn Moquin is The Observer’s 2012 Female Athlete of the Year.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.