Tucson High rallies for emotional win in Chris Moon Memorial Classic opener

Tucson High’s baseball team with the special painting honoring Chris Moon behind home plate at Cherry Field (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The Tucson High baseball family has mourned the loss of two of its own — Chris Moon and Troy Iturralde — and the Badgers celebrated their lives on Thursday as part of the Chris Moon Memorial Classic at Cherry Field.

Moon is a war hero who passed away while in combat in 2010 in Afghanistan as part of the war on terrorism. He was there despite having a scholarship to play baseball at Arizona under coach Andy Lopez after a stellar career at Tucson High as a pitcher who could throw 90 mph and cover the outfield as a centerfielder.

Chris Moon statue at Cherry Field (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Iturralde, a junior at Tucson High, succumbed to testicular cancer in December after he was diagnosed with it eight months previously during the 2021 season.

“This means everything to me,” Tucson High coach Mark Morris said of the annual Chris Moon Memorial Classic held at Cherry Field. “I watched Chris grow up in the church with us. My mom and his mom are great friends. Our kids went to the preschool that Marsha (Moon’s mom) ran.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking because I was coaching first base when I found out Chris had succumbed to his injuries. And this year, I was talking to the team when I found out Troy succumbed to the cancer. So it’s like a little safe haven out here. I feel that they’re with us. It’s a great way to honor all of our military, especially the guys who given their lives.”

Tucson High’s head athletic trainer Mike Boese and his daughter Melonie stayed at Cherry Park until 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday finishing a painting in the grass behind home plate that reads “Legacies Alive” with a soldier and the words “Chris Moon Memorial.” (Tucson High photo)

The opening games of the classic were postponed on Wednesday because of inclement weather.

Tucson played its first game of the season on Thursday afternoon against Catalina Foothills and the Badgers trailed 4-0 before rallying in the bottom of the sixth with two outs for six runs for the 6-4 win.

Kito Castro got the rally started reaching on a bunt single and Mario Bejarano followed with a home run over the center field fence to cut the lead to 4-2.

Nick Arias and Ruben Villaescusa-Galaz then walked before Max Leyva hit a ground-rule double to center field that scored Arias to make it 4-3 Catalina Foothills.

Benji Cazares followed with a triple that reached the fence in left-center field and scored Villaescusa-Galaz and Leyva to put Tucson ahead 5-4.

The last run scored when Cazares came home on Ayden Escarrega’s infield single.

Gerraro Brito pitched the last two innings for the win. He struck out four and did not allow a walk.

Castro, Bejarano, Arias, Villaescusas-Galaz, Cazares and Escarrega are all seniors.

“It shows the fortitude of these kids,” Morris said of the six-run rally for the win. “We made a couple of errors — there were seniors who made errors — but then they turned around and produced the runs to win the game.

“Baseball is about how you react to that failure. That’s what we’ve been teaching them. It’s huge. It’s a great momentum builder especially starting the Chris Moon tournament. We never like to lose in these tournaments. We feel like we have a little extra edge. It felt like he (Moon) was here and the seniors stepped up.”

Tucson High celebrates its season-opening win (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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