Freshman pitchers Arnold Moss and Blair already lead the team

Having already committed to the University of Florida before even setting foot on the Arnold High School campus, expectations couldn’t have been much higher for Marlins freshman Cooper Moss at the approach of the 2022 season.

At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, the 15-year-old Moss certainly looks like baseball’s prodigious talent, and he wasted little time showing he could play the part, too.

After showing his skills at the plate with six hits and seven RBIs in his first four games, Moss got a chance to make his mark on the mound with his first career start on March 3 against the defending champion ‘State 5A Mosley.

It was a big ask for such a young player, though you’d have a hard time guessing Moss’ age if you didn’t already know by watching him tear up the Dolphins roster. Moss struck out 11 Mosley batters in five innings, allowing just one earned run on three hits and two walks in a 7-3 win.

Marlin Cooper Moss delivers a pitch.  Arnold hosted Mosley at a baseball game on Thursday, March 3, 2022.

It was Arnold’s first win over Mosley since the 2015 season. If Moss’ memory of that game was a little fuzzy, you could forgive him, seeing as he was a sophomore at the time.

“I kind of knew the story,” Moss said. “I knew what the team had been through for the past two years and the struggles they had against Mosley. It really made me want to push hard and beat them. As a rookie for my first start, he There’s nothing better than beating the reigning state champions and a rival team.You couldn’t ask for anything more.

Although this was Moss’ first start, it wasn’t his first impressive performance in a big game on the mound, as he struck out 10 batters and allowed just one earned run in 4-1. /3 sets of relief to pave the way for a 12-9 victory against Gulf Breeze a week earlier.

Marlins coach Chris Jones said he couldn’t have been more impressed with the poise and comfort with those moments of pressure the rookie showed against Mosley and Gulf Breeze, as well as in a 4- 3 against Bozeman when he faced Bucks. senior star Jeremy Todd.

“Mosley’s game is a big game here and he treated it like a pro,” Jones said. “Obviously he was pumped up and fired up for it, but he stayed to himself and gave us a great chance to win. He also pitched really well against Bozeman, good enough for us to win. The kid Todd is one of the best players in the zone and he went toe to toe with him.When we had those marquee matchups, Cooper was moved to that spot.

“It’s something as a coach, you don’t know how it’s going to be with a young player. We wanted to throw him in high level games and see how he reacted and he couldn’t have reacted better. “He’s just a very competitive kid who makes good throws in high pressure areas. It’s a tough thing to teach, but it’s something he came up with.

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Moss helped himself in those high-pressure games with his bat, making seven total runs against Mosley, Gulf Breeze and Bozeman. In Friday games, he led Arnold and all Bay County players with 17 RBIs this season.

Whether it’s swinging the bat or standing on the mound, Moss said he likes being able to make big plays for his team in the biggest moments.

“I like to play under pressure,” he said. “I really like my chances, it gives me something to compete with and improve on. Being in those situations will make you a better baseball player, so I really like being in those high pressure situations, especially against a team like Mosley.”

A freshman running mate

Of course, Moss isn’t the only Arnold freshman to make a major impact this season. Freshman Eli Blair doesn’t hit like Moss, but he was a key part of the Marlins’ rotation as the No. 2 starter, going 2-1 in four starts with a 3 ERA, 63 and 14 strikeouts.

The 6-foot-5 southpaw has been remarkably consistent for a freshman, with just one poor start in five appearances in an 18-12 loss to Knoxville Catholic (Tenn.) on Friday. He won his first two starts against Bay High and Choctawhatchee while allowing just one earned run and striking out 10 in nine innings.

As Moss became a more well-known commodity, it didn’t take long for Blair to also establish himself with Jones as a player he could rely on.

Arnold's pitcher Eli Blair delivers a pitch to a Knoxville Catholic hitter at Panama City Beach Sports Park on Friday, March 25, 2022.

“I heard there was a big boy from Surfside who was a really good basketball player who could also throw a bit,” Jones said. “He showed up in the fall and has progressed well. He’s worked well on his command, he’s throwing more shots, he’s probably more competitive than he was when he got here.

“He’s a guy walking there and you notice him because of his stature. You think, ‘wow, this is going to turn into something someday’, and that day turned out to be today. He doesn’t throw as hard as Cooper, but he really masters his mechanics and throws a lot of punches.As he grows in his body over the next few years, he’ll get out of here and go play the university somewhere too.

The future is now

With top returning pitcher Colton Dorsey not likely to pitch this season due to injury, Moss and Blair have been elevated to No. 1 and No. 2 in the rotation, with the Marlins likely to go as well. far this season than their freshman duo. will take them.

It’s a lot to put on the shoulders of players so young, but Blair said he and Moss, who have played together since they were 7, are up for the challenge.

“We adopted it,” Blair said. “I think the team likes us on the mound and we know there will be ups and downs, but I know we’ll get there as a team.”

Marlin Cooper Moss takes third place against Knoxville Catholic at Panama City Beach Sports Park on Friday, March 25, 2022.

Moss said he understands how rare it is for two freshmen to be at the top of the rotation for a team with real playoff ambitions, although he said they both worked to get ready to perform on the big stage.

“Me and him had very high goals and we are both trying to achieve them and give our team the best chance to win,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard the last few months and for years together and I think we’re the two best guys for the job.”

Jones certainly seems to agree, praising not only the talent but also the poise and maturity his two young freshmen have shown so far.

“Having two freshmen pitch the bulk of our innings and us still walking over water at this point in the season is a testament to those two guys,” he said. “They really carry us on the mound. We wouldn’t be where we are without those two, that’s for sure. They’ve been pretty impressive. We’re excited about the future. We’ve got four good years of pitching in front of us.”

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