Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mo’ne Davis Dominates at Little League World Series

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — An unmistakable electricity ran through Howard J. Lamade Stadium on Friday as a team from Pennsylvania faced a team from Tennessee on the second day of the Little League World Series.

Outside the stadium, fans and family members were enjoying a pleasant afternoon. But inside, there was the energy of championship Sunday, a sense of expectation that went beyond partisan cheering. Something special was happening.

Mo’ne Davis was on the mound for the first time since her suffocating performance in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship, when she shut out Delaware-Newark National to lead Taney Youth Baseball Association of Philadelphia to the Series. Most of the announced 15,648 in attendance recognized the potential for something historic to unfold.

Could she live up to the hype?


Davis pitched six innings, gave up a pair infield hits and struck out eight in a 4-0 victory over Nashville. By the end of fifth inning, with her Tennessee counterpart at the 85-pitch limit, Davis had thrown just 44.

With each out in the final inning, the cheers became louder, and when Davis struck out the final batter, becoming the first girl in Little League World Series history to earn a win, the crowd exploded. Her parents hugged and then accepted the congratulations of strangers.

Their modest 13-year-old girl had become an inspiration virtually overnight.

“She’s a great ballplayer but an even better kid,” one woman told Davis’s stepfather, Mark Williams.

For a few moments, Williams was speechless.

“I’m overwhelmed and so happy for her and so happy for this entire team,” he said. “Even if we don’t win it, we’ve still won.”

Davis’s mother, Latisha McLain, close to tears, said: “I’m just so, so happy for her. She’s humble; she’s calm. Nothing ever bothers her.”

Asked if she was responsible for her daughter’s athleticism, McLain laughed.

“I didn’t play sports growing up,” she said. “I didn’t play anything, and I didn’t want her to play — I thought she’d get hurt. But when I saw how good she was in basketball, I said it was O.K.”

After Davis’s impressive performance on Sunday and the subsequent news media attention, fans were eager to see a girl who was not just playing with the boys but dominating them, on a level playing field.

After Friday’s game, Pennsylvania Manager Alex Rice put Davis’s performance in perfect perspective, saying, “It was the Mo show out there.”

Davis, whose stoic demeanor on the mound is becoming her signature, acknowledged that she was nervous going into the game. Who could blame her? In addition to the pressure of facing top-flight competition, Davis has been dealing with becoming a star in a world of instant media.

Her Instagram account now has more than 8,000 followers. Her favorite athlete, Kevin Durant, acknowledged her on Twitter on Friday, and the Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout mentioned her, too.

But after her team jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead, Davis relaxed. She had breathing room.

“The nerves went away, and I just went out there and had fun,” she said, adding: “I settled into the game as it went by. I got to know the umpire’s strike zone, so that helped me out a lot.”

Out of the nearly 9,000 players who have participated in the Little League World Series, only 18 were girls. Davis is the fourth American girl, and with Emma March of Canada also playing, this is the third time in the tournament’s 68-year history that two girls are competing at the same time.

The issue came up in the postgame news conference and will come up again: Does Davis see herself as a role model?

The answer: a refreshing yes.

“It’s very unreal,” she said. “I never thought that at the age of 13 I would be a role model, but now it’s real. I always wanted to be a basketball role model; being a baseball role model is really cool.”

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